A terrifying mid-air collision in 2017 was caused by two international pilot trainees who both lacked basic English language proficiency. One of the pilots was severely injured, the other pilot died.
The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) released a report on the crash that occurred between two flight school airplanes near St-Bruno-de-Montarville, Quebec. The report clearly states that lack of language proficiency in English and French on the student’s part muddled the complex aeronautical environment that caused the accident.
The investigation states that both pilots “deviated from the altitude restrictions provided by air traffic control before colliding in mid-air.” According to the report, the pilots involved in the crash were international flight students enrolled in training in Canada.
Both of the pilots in the crash were tested and met the minimum English-language proficiency requirements to fly, however, neither pilot’s first language was English or French. According to the TSB report, improper and insufficient language proficiency testing, which allowed these student pilots with low English-language proficiency to pass, is likely a key factor in the cause of the crash.
The investigation found that it’s not possible to ensure the validity, reliability or nation-wide standardization of the aviation language proficiency testing (ALPT) given by Transport Canada, as there is little to no oversight of the examiners. Even though pilots must be at operational or expert level in English or French (or both), “operational,” meaning they met a minimum international proficiency level to be able to communicate with air traffic control, it wasn’t enough. A Civil Aviation Safety Alert was published, citing the risks created by improper validity, reliability and standardization in language testing.
The Transportation Safety Board of Canada concluded with the recommendation that all international student pilots should be tested through private language proficiency testing programs, and be required to meet stringent English-language standards to obtain personal licensing prior to their first solo flight.
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