Ingo Noka

Do you speak English?

In Knowledge, Private Pilot License on October 11, 2013 at 6:40 pm

Better write down what ATC is saying. I am not that young anymore.

So you think you speak English?  You are even born in a country that has English as the mother tongue?  Interesting, but DCA Malaysia wants to make sure.  And that means every pilot and air traffic controller has to do an English proficiency test.  The test will tell whether you have a pre-elementary knowledge of English (the lowest score) or whether you are an expert (the highest score).  If you fail the test (score 1 to 3) you are not a pilot anymore, no matter what your license says. And, unless you are an expert, you have to repeat the proficiency test every three years (score 4) or six years (score 5).  Only experts can forget about this for the rest of their Malaysian pilot career. (BTW: The English test has not been invented in Malaysia.  This is an ICAO requirement and has been implemented in one form or other by most countries in the world.)

My last score was a 4 and the three years will expire tomorrow.  So, I went on a Firefly flight to Subang this morning and reported at APFT (one of the approved test centers in Malaysia) to take my test.  I was secretly hoping for a six rating, but I got a five.  Not a bad result.  I won’t need to do that again for six years.  The best part of this is that I was able to take the results to DCA in Putrajaya right away and they updated my license on the spot.  Free skies of Asia – I am back in business. Off to Medan tomorrow.

APFT is using a computer based system ran by Jeppesen out of Germany.  The APFT test is considered somewhat harder than the test done by University Putra Malaysia.  The advantage of APFT is that you can show up pretty much every weekday between 8 am and 5 pm and take the test and you will get the results instantaneously.  At UPM you have to make an appointment for a test slot that may be some time in the future ad the results are only available two weeks after the test.

The APFT test consists of 8 parts:

  1. The computer “speaks” a couple of standard ATC messages and you read every one back as good as you can. (e.g. “call sign, start up approved.”)
  2. The computer reads some standard English sentences and you read them back. (e.g. “She was going to visit her parents.”)
  3. You have to repeat increasingly complicated sentences read to yo by the computer. (e.g. “My next flight is on Monday.”)
  4. You answer questions with just one or two words. (“An aircraft flies close to sea level. is it flying high or low?”)
  5. You read back ATC instructions (e.g. “call sign, descent 4000 feet.”)
  6. You correct or confirm pilot or ATC messages.  The computer will read two message (ATC/pilot) and you are to play the role of the first speaker, which can be either ATC or the pilot.  Usually the read-back is incorrect, so that you have to correct it in your response.  (e.g. “call sign, descent turn right heading 102.  – Turn right heading 120, call sign. – you: Negative, turn right heading 102.”)
  7. The computer will read a short story to you and you have to repeat it within 30 seconds.
  8. You have to answer two questions within 30 seconds.

Most pilots have problems with section 7 and 8 of the test.  You do not have much time to think about your response.  For task 8, the best strategy is to start talking straight away and make it up as you go. For task 7 you should note down some key phrases of the story and use it in your story re-telling.



  1. Yes, I had to do the test in China and then again in Hong Kong. The fact that I had a level 6 in my ICAO licence made no difference.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: