English language as part of the Educational Program of the Military Aviation School
Troilo Britos, María Cecilia
The English Language is one of the most important languages used internationally to get communicated through different social activities, such as the exchange of information, and business and technological updating. For each of the areas there is specific vocabulary and different uses although the language is the same. This is the case of the aeronautic field. A Hungarian flying his plane over Japan will use English to get communicated; a Brazilian landing in France will speak in English with the tower of control; an officer of the Air Force receiving people from Germany will also use this language to communicate. From my point of view, the knowledge of English provides the following advantages to the personnel of the Air Force: first, an effective communication through the radio or telephone with their superiors, in a peace mission, with people who belong to other Air Forces from different countries, in training courses developed in other countries where its participants speak different languages, etc.; and second, the exchange of updated information with organizations which are more technologically advanced than we are in order to improve our projects. We have to take into consideration that English has become an international language that all people who are involved in an international activity need and should know and be able to use in any form of communication. In order to communicate effectively, the understanding of this language becomes really significant when we talk about disciplines where human life is at risk. Someone who works with lives behind him/her has the obligation of knowing what he/she is doing and understanding what the people from the tower say; otherwise, it is impossible to stop the chain of mistakes that could appear in any moment. Professionals should dominate the activity that they do, not only flying a plane, repairing or designing an aircraft, but also being able to get communicated in a correct way and understand what they read in the manuals. This person should be capable of thinking in English as well, or else, the time and the concentration they need to translate what they want to say in an emergency situation could be the starting point of a tragedy. For this reason, it is essential that all professionals who work in the aeronautic field learn this international language and the specific vocabulary needed in order to be able to use this language properly. As English is the language used in this specific field, and being aware of the big amount of information that nowadays is shared in the aeronautical area, it is highly important that the teaching of this language be specialized in that sector too. In other words, it is necessary to teach English for this Specific Purpose. When I started thinking about the topic for my final undergraduate project, I knew it was going to be related with the idea of English for Specific Purposes, not only because I find it very interesting, but also because I have always wanted to work on specific areas, such as business, tourism and, of course, the aeronautical one. I have always been interested in teaching the English language as a tool that helps professional people to reach their objectives. In addition to this, I have always been in contact with the aeronautical field. I will say that it has been part of my life since I was a little kid and I have always wanted to relate my career to this field of study. I graduated from the technical school of the Argentinian Air Force as an aeronautical technician in the year 2001. After this, I entered the Military Aviation School as a cadet to become a pilot, but life took me through a totally different road and I started my degree program of English Language just the following year. It was in the year 2007 that I had the opportunity to talk with the headmaster of the Aeronautical University and he asked me to do my undergraduate work in The Military Aviation School of the Argentinian Air Force. At that time the institution needed to make modifications to the curriculum and the methodologies used in the area of English language in order to be able to reach the desired objectives of the Air Force and the new standards of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). This is the reason why I am doing my final work at the Argentinian Air Force. The thing is that, investigations which have been done by the ICAO about several major airline accidents over the last few years have found that the lack of language proficiency by pilots and controllers has been a major causal factor. Although the majority of pilots and controllers are familiar with the ICAO standardized phraseology, when an abnormal situation arises or an event occurs that requires a pilot to exchange information with a “foreign” controller, the ability to communicate is sometimes very poor. For this reason, this organization has decided that all pilots, air traffic controllers and technicians must have at least an intermediate level of English if they want to work in the aeronautical field, mostly if they do it internationally. One of the worst aircraft accidents occurred in Spain in the year 1977 when two planes crashed on the runway because their pilots misunderstood the orders of the tower, which were given in English. Five hundred and eighty three people died in this terrible accident. That is why the ICAO has decided that the best way of preventing future accidents is that everyone obtains their English certificate issued by this organization. In this way, they want to ensure that air traffic control personnel and flight crews engaged in flight operations in airspace where the use of the English language is required, are proficient in speaking and comprehending Aviation English. For this reason, the Argentinean Air Force is really concerned about this situation and needs to change their present curriculums if they want their personnel to be prepared to get the certification of the ICAO. But first I will explain the background and the purpose of The Military Aviation School. I will start saying that the Military Aviation School is the institution where the future officers of the Argentinian Air Force are trained, whose main orientations are denominated "Air list", "Technical list" and "General list". The educational process in the Aviation School lasts four years. During this time, the cadets study different subjects in the mornings, some of them related to the aeronautics field (such as Aerodynamics and Aeronautical Engines), and have military training in the afternoon. When they are finishing the last year of the educational program, they can choose which of the three orientations they want to follow. In the next year, when they are already officers of the Air Force, they start different degree programs following their orientations. For example, someone who is in the Air list can only be a pilot, but if he is in the Technical list, he can study aeronautical engineering, electronic engineering, or systems engineering. If he is in the General list, he can study logistics, law, administration and so on. The Military Aviation School was created in the year 1912 in El Palomar, province of Buenos Aires, by Roque Sáenz Peña, who was the President of the Nation at that time. At the beginning, the Director of this institution was the engineer Jorge Newbery and the students of the school were officers who belonged to the Army and the Marine. In February of 1937 it was decided that the Aviation School was going to move to Córdoba because of the good conditions of the climate there and the proximity to the Military Factory of Aircraft, which would give technical support to the school and its planes. Till the year 1944, the Military Aviation School was a specialized institution that formed part of the Army which imparted to its students (military personnel) all the necessary knowledge to train them as Military Pilots. In 1945, after the so-called "Military Aeronautical Era" started, the first course of cadets of the first year started with civilians. The new educational programs were different for each orientation (air, technical and general ones), but they all had technical subjects, military training, aeronautical subjects, Portuguese and technical English. The cadets could enter the school upon completion of their 4th year of secondary school, and the course of pilot started on the second year as a cadet. In 1971, the Course of Military Aviator (CAM) was created for graduate officers only. In this way, the institution created the Cultural Area with different humanistic subjects included in the education of the cadets, and decided that all the courses of specialization, such as the CAM, would be done by officers of the first year considering their lists (Air, Technical or General). At this time, the people who wanted to enter the school needed to have completed their secondary studies. Very few changes have been made since those years, the educational programs and the subjects imparted are very similar to the ones that the school had in that decade. I will say that the aim of this project is to design a new curriculum of English Language which suits the institution to help the cadets of the Military Aviation School reach the expected objectives of the Air Force and the standards of the International Civil Aviation Organization. This work will develop an investigation, interpretation, evaluation and selection of all the necessary information to illustrate the situation of the Institution, and to apply it in order to organize and design the elements of this new curriculum. This will be a very important contribution for The Military Aviation School. It will help the institution to analyze the new needs and present curriculum, and will provide the department of languages with precious material that will help them to reach a better level of English Language performance in order to satisfy their real objectives, and to have not only better English Language and Aviation English skills, but also, and more important, better operational Aviation English skills which are highly relevant to controllers, pilots and technicians.