Date of Issue: Thursday, February 27, 2008
By John Quarterman, COPA Manager of Membership Assistance & Programs
On March 5th 2008, a new ICAO requirement went into effect around the world. By this date pilots and Air Traffic Controllers must be evaluated for language proficiency in one of two languages. The languages are either English OR another language that is an accepted language for the country in which they are operating. In Canada this means pilots will be evaluated for their English and/or French proficiency. Either is acceptable, with different operational restrictions applying.
(For further information see the TC safety article on the new language requirement)
To quote the ICAO website on the new language proficiency requirement…:
Amendment 164 to Annex 1 has introduced strengthened language proficiency requirements for flight crew members and air traffic controllers. The language proficiency requirements apply to any language used for radiotelephony communications in international operations. Therefore, pilots on international flights shall demonstrate language proficiency in either English or the language used by the station on the ground. Controllers working on stations serving designated airports and routes used by international air services shall demonstrate language proficiency in English as well as in any other language(s) used by the station on the ground.
For more information, please refer to Annex 1, Chapter 1, paragraph 1.2.9 and Attachment to Annex 1, and also to Annex 10, Volume II, Chapter 5. Please, also refer to the FAQ "Guidance on the evaluation of language proficiency".
All ICAO signatory countries with pilots operating internationally must assess their pilots and issue all licences with a proficiency rating which have their proficiency in English or the language used for air traffic control in that country indicated on their licence. The only exception to that requirement is if a country has posted their plan (to later comply with the ICAO requirement), with the ICAO.
… the applicability date of 5 March 2008 is retained. However, the 36th Assembly of ICAO (September 2007) urged Contracting States to accept in their own airspace until 5 March 2011, pilots from other States that are not in a position to comply with the language proficiency requirements by 5 March 2008 provided that the States that issued or rendered valid the licenses post on the ICAO Flight Safety Exchange FSIX (click here) their language proficiency implementation plans.
Transport Canada has not posted a plan with the ICAO for compliance with the requirement. Transport Canada’s position is that they have substantially met the ICAO requirement, and therefore are not required to file an implementation plan with ICAO. According to Transport Canada, over 95% of all Canadian pilots have already been accessed and their records amended to show they are proficient in English, a small percentage have been assessed as French only and a similar small percentage has yet to be assessed. New licence holders will be assessed for language proficiency and there are already facilities and personnel in place to ensure that.
As far as Transport Canada is concerned, there is no domestic requirement for existing licence holders to show their language proficiency on the licence, Transport Canada has nevertheless recently put a plan into action for dealing with the impending March 5th deadline for international operations. They have been issuing licences with language indication since last fall whenever a new licence is issued or an existing licence is upgraded. To deal with the impending deadline and with no plan posted, which would have alleviated the need for language profiles on licences in the near term, Transport Canada officials have instead implemented a plan to print replacement licences that are ICAO-compliant for all CPL (Commercial Pilot Licence), ATPL (Airline Transport Pilot Licence) and Air Traffic Controller licence holders before the March 5th deadline. For other licence and permit holders, however, they will not receive an automatic upgrade to their licences. The rationale for this decision is that the workload involved in converting 65,000 documents would be lengthy and, for many recreational pilots not intending to fly internationally in the near future, would be a waste of resources considering that new photo ID, passport format licences and permits will be issued in the near future (expected to be completed by the end of 2010). So, Transport Canada continues to accept current licences without a language proficiency indication for domestic operations only.
If you plan to only fly domestically you do not have to do anything. However, it is important to understand that since Canada has not filed a plan with the ICAO, pilots should comply with the requirement for a language indication on their licence as of March 5th 2008 in order to fly internationally, including the US.
" All private, commercial or ATP as well as FEs and flight navigators should hold a replacement certificate with the "English Proficient" endorsement when operating internationally as required crewmembers of an airplane or helicopter."
This statement implies that the FAA agrees with ICAO that anyone flying internationally should have a language profile and therefore the statement gives the angle an inspector may need to violate someone or at least bring it to Canada's attention that one of their pilots is operating illegally. So CALL the Transport Canada regional office where your pilot file is kept and ask for the licensing department, then ask them for a replacement licence with the language proficiency indicated. Virtually everyone will receive a replacement licence on the basis of an assessment of their file. There is no cost for the replacement licence.
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