Aviation radio simulator helps pilots learn how to communicate with ATC

Two Purdue University alumni have developed an aviation radio simulator to help new pilots master radio communication skills to better interact with air traffic control operators.

Muharrem Mane, an alumnus from the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and Eren Hadimioglu, an alumnus from the School of Aviation and Transportation Technology, created and developed PlaneEnglish.

The aviation radio simulator helps new pilots become proficient in aviation phraseology and communication, according to the developers, who note it gives instantaneous feedback through voice recognition and speech analysis.

The app-based tool also aims to help new pilots reach FAA and International Civil Aviation Organization standards for English language use, the developers add.

“We’ve gotten feedback that this is something very different and very new in the area of flight training,” Mane said. “It’s a combination of ease of access — train on the go — the way we’re doing the speech analysis, and feedback to the user that is something that doesn’t exist out there.”

PlaneEnglish has more than 50 lessons accessible at any time. Lessons guide users through simple and complicated interactions with air traffic control on every phase of flight from taxi out, to takeoff, to airspace entrance, to approaches, to taxi in.

Each simulation includes visual clues that show altitude, distance from an airport, and direction. A variety of airports can be selected or one will be randomly selected for the user.

Users are required to respond properly in specific situations, using the correct phraseology, speech rate, and other factors. There can be as many as five or six exchanges back and forth with “air traffic control.” Then users are graded on those responses.

“Every time you do a lesson, there is going to be something that changes,” Mane said. “You can’t just memorize.”

Mane also said the technology comes at a time when the FAA has put an increased focus on English language proficiency for pilots and started asking instructors to test their students on their speaking and communication abilities.

PlaneEnglish is available for Android, and the next step is developing it for iOS. A Kickstarter campaign has been launched to help toward that goal.

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View Comments (5)

  • The concept is sound. Speaking to ATC is a fear many student and new pilots have.
    I agree that LiveATC is great, and I listen all the time. It helps one understand what to expect, familiarize with words and phrases, and gets you used to listening to the speed and (occasionally) poor audio quality of radio.
    However, having a tool that causes the student to think and respond. And records them so they can hear how well/poor they sound has value.
    I was recently at EmbryRiddle and observed the large number of foreign students there. While their English was OK, their pronunciation was often terrible and sometimes unintelligible. This app might be a good tool for them.
    Considering the pilot shortage, and the low numbers of US kids going into aviation, I expect the airlines will be importing pilots within the next 5 to 10 years. It would be nice if they can speak to ATC with understandable English.

  • I have been astounded that no one has offered anything like this before. Radio communication methods and phraseology are one area of flight training where there has historically been little agreement among flight instructors, resulting in confusion and "sink or swim" self learning being needed by all new pilots, once they are actually out in the ATC world.
    I have heard certain radio methods defended vigorously as "this is the only way to do it", then countered just as vigorously by the very next flight instructor encountered, or by an air traffic controller. There is little consensus in that community.
    With that said, listening to the demo, it is not very good, and is actually not correct in repeating back what was said on some things. If the demo is not right, it does seem this needs a lot more work before it it is cleared for takeoff, but it is a great idea.

  • Why an app at all? Just tune into http://www.liveatc.net and LISTEN. Nothing beats real world interactions. Sure there are some pilots who will say something like "with you" and on initial call fail to give their full tail number and altitude. But it's a golden tool in every other way and will get all pilots up to speed on technique instantly. Try KAPA near Denver.

  • Hideous! I listed to the sample they offer on their web site. Absolutely hideous. This "teaching" tool should be ignored for a variety of reasons. If this is how student pilots are boing taught to communicate with ATC, it's no wonder they cannot talk their way through the skies. I am outraged at those who produced this garbage, you're doing a great disservice to the piloting/ATC community.

    • Well, at least your feedback is constructive. They seem like unscrupulous people trying to ruin aviation. Looking forward to your contribution. /s