Every morning around five, when I attempt to check in on the computers, in the OPS Centre, a red message alerts me, to the fact that I have to pass an English Language Test by the end of this year. Holy Crap!
As a person, who is fearful before taking tests of any kind, I prepare myself as carefully as possible. For this reason I have chosen to write this column in English.
Two months ago, as luck would have it, I was rostered with an English Language Proficiency Checker (ELPC) on a very long flight leg… yeah right… a 45 minute sector. A great opportunity to pass the check between «silent cockpit phase after take-off», «public address», «requesting the flight connections at operation control», «flight planning for the next leg», «approach briefing», «public address» and «silent cockpit phase before landing». The day before I sent an email to the ELPC, to ask him to bring the forms and test questions along.
Fortunately, a very good friend of mine, flying for Qantas out of Sydney, was staying with me in Zurich, and he read my email and added to my well prepared English sentences. «I hereby confirm, that Mr. Peter Tilly speaks the best English I’ve ever heard», and believe it or not, the Checker didn’t show up the next day… So I still haven’t been tested, and I still have to be a little nervous, and yes, I still have to practice my English skills.
But even on short haul operation there are other opportunities to speak the aviation language.
Not long ago, a severe storm hit Europe with winds up to 70 knots. Most of the civilized airports were closed. I sat with an Austrian and a Lufthansa Skipper at a bar in a half star hotel near a runway somewhere in Europe and we discussed the rough and tough pilot’s life. Despite that we all called German our mother tongue, a conversation in German was impossible. The Austrian «Kapitän» had an accent, which was more painful to the ear, than the brake fans during the walk around. The Lufthansa «Flugzeugführer» came from a small village in the north of Germany, spoke Low German and sounded like a drunken Dutch sailor in a French «house of hill repute» in the middle of the night. In other words, communication in German was hopeless. So we switched to English.
We did what Captains do, when we are at a bar. We drank a few beers, told each other dirty jokes and spoke about the terrible weather outside. We all were happy, that the beer was cold and most of the airports around where closed.
«Are you scared?», the German asked me. «No, I’m scored, that’s even worse!»
SCORE – A word I better not use! The discussion became louder and louder and I learned a lot of new English words, most of them I best not use during the scary English Language Proficiency Check. This conversation ended, when the Lufthansa «Flugzeugführer» went to the toilet.
«Peter, what are you thinking about?”, the Austrian «Kapitän» asked me. «I’m pretty nervous about the English exam I have to pass within the next few months», I replied. He laughed out loud and changed to his brake-fan-like-accent: «Wer long sudert wird net pudert». I didn’t understand the meaning of the Austrian-brake-fan-sentence and asked for translation. «The more you whinge, the less you shag!», was his short answer.
Three young and pretty ladies from another crew joined our party and we stopped the pilot’s talk and switched to a gentlemen discussion. We listened carefully to the galley-gossip and paid for drinks after drinks to impress the female part of the world. The night was dark, the storm was still over Europe and our flights the next day were cancelled. My two colleagues got a day off away from home base, and I received standby duty from five a.m. till five p.m. from the Swiss dispatch…
I fell asleep and dreamt about things I can’t write in this column. The German «Flugzeugführer» scored that night and I hope that I will score at the English Language Proficiency Check very soon.
Question: So is my English enough for a level four mark?