Monthly Archives: January 2010

Expression of the week: give someone a heads up

“Give someone a heads up”.

Portuguese equivalent: “Avisar alguém”.

It means to give someone a warning about something that’s going to happen.

Sample sentences:

“The flight dispatcher gave us a heads up that they would rearrange the cargo after the passengers boarded”.

“Let me give you a heads up: the president of the company is on this flight!”

Do you have any suggestions for this section? Leave a comment!


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An unusual situation (listening + clarity practice)

I’m sure most of you, pilots, have already seen at least one video about this accident, if not this one. But my point here is not to bring you a new video, but to talk about some fundamental points to increase clarity in your communications.

The accident with US Air flight 1549 happened in New York City on January 15, 2009. All the people involved, pilots and controllers alike, were native speakers of English, but even so, the controllers found it hard to understand what the pilot was saying and had to rely on a relay from another aircraft to grasp the message he was trying to give them: “I think we’re going to end up in the Hudson!”

Watch the video and check the following points:

1) Both the pilot and the controller mistake the call sign (the flight is 1549)
2) Notice how the controller asks the pilot to repeat his intentions because he didn’t understand the first time (1min37seconds) and simply gives the pilot another option of runway when he doesn’t answer, unaware that he is already performing a ditching.
3) Nobody uses standard phraseology – they’re all using general English for aviation (which is exactly what ICAO and ANAC want you to be able to do – when strictly necessary).

So, what happened here? Isn’t the pilot a level 4? Isn’t the controller a level 4? What happened was human nature. Allow me to explain.

We human  beings are creatures of habits. Have you ever noticed how you always soap up in the same order when you shower? Believe me, you just do. Pilots and controllers are human beings, and are trained to follow specific procedures, sometimes repetitive. This makes it hard for us human beings (including pilots and controllers) to realize when something out of the ordinary has happened. Maybe not so much realize, but believe.

When the pilot said he had had a bird strike, the controller immediately reacted by acknowledging this fact, vectoring him back to the airport and halting traffic in the vicinity. Bird strikes happen, and this is what he is trained to do in such events. Immediately afterwards, controllers start discussing the options and offering the pilot some viable alternatives. Again, it can’t have been the first time this has happened.

Now, pay close attention when the pilot first says he may have to land on the Hudson River (42 seconds). Did the controller acknowledge? His next message to 1549 starts with ‘alright’, but it’s quite clear that he hasn’t really taken in the vital piece of information that he was given. The pilot then asks for other suggestions, and this message is clearly understood by the controller (1 min to 1 min 6 seconds). Well, everyone who works in that area is aware that there is a river there called Hudson and an airport called Teterboro; however, the controller didn’t seem to understand it when the pilot said ‘we may end up in the Hudson’, but immediately caught ‘Teterboro’. Isn’t it funny?

Go ahead to 1 min 27 seconds, when the controller offers the pilot runway 1 at Teterboro Airport. The pilot answers simply ‘we can’t do it’, and the controller then asks him to choose a runway at Teterboro. He still hasn’t gotten the idea. When the pilot says again that they will have to land in the Hudson River, the controller asks him to repeat and goes on giving him options until another pilot in another aircraft interferes and clarifies it for him.

Why did this happen? Because landing in the Hudson is not the first option when you have a technical problem after taking off from New York – well, it isn’t the second either. So although the pilot – a native speaker – was perfectly clear when he stated his intentions and the controller – another native speaker – was perfectly able to understand what he had said, it just didn’t make sense, so he simply didn’t process the information.

Let’s go straight to the lessons learnt from this accident:

1) Be as clear as possible when using radiotelephony (RT). Don’t assume that just because your English is good everyone will understand you. Repeat your messages as many times as necessary to be understood, changing the words if possible, so that you go around any occasional pronunciation or vocabulary issue.
2) Keep your ears open and really listen. Although something may sound impossible, it may be true, so trust your ears. And if you’re not sure, ask for clarification. What matters is to understand.

Let’s practice these abilities in class!


Foi difícil entender o texto? Que tal marcar algumas aulas?

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Expression of the week: It’s up to…

“It’s up to (you)”.

Portuguese equivalent: “Depende de (você)”.

It means that someone is in charge, or responsible for doing something or making a decision.

Sample sentences:

It’s up to the company to choose the alternative airport for a certain route”.

– “Do you think we should take off in this weather?”
-“That’s up to the captain

Can you think of other examples? Try!

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Typical pilot mistake: “don’t have conditions to…”

Some mistakes are typical to a group of professionals, probably because all of them have access to similar training materials, manuals, and deal with similar equipment and situations. Pilots have several peculiar mistakes, and I’m going to try to address them slowly from now on…

The first typical pilot mistake we’re going to see is: “I don’t have conditions to…”. The origin of this error is clearly a wrong translation from Portuguese, the mother tongue of most of the pilots I teach. Pilots tend to use this expression mistakenly when they want to say that it’s impossible for them to do something, for example when it would be impossible for them to land because of the bad weather, or when it wouldn’t be possible for them to take a certain action for some reason.

To make this idea sound more natural in English, the best solution is to use either one of the following expressions: “I’m unable to…” or “I’m not able to”. Of course, the verb TO BE has to be changed according to the subject and to the context (adjusting singular x plural and verb tense), but this would sound better and still carry the same meaning.

Let’s see some sample sentences:

“It was raining so hard that we were unable to land at our destination”.

“If I’m not able to put out the fire, I will land immediately”.

Can you think of other examples? Let’s practice in class!


Erro típico: “don’t have conditions to…”

Alguns erros são típicos de um grupo de profissionais, provavelmente porque todos eles têm acesso a materiais e manuais de treinamento similares, e lidam com equipamentos e situações semelhantes. Pilotos têm diversos erros peculiares, e vou tentar tratar deles devagar de agora em diante…

O primeiro erro típico de pilotos que veremos é: “I don’t have conditions to…”. A origem desse erro é claramente uma tradução errônea do português, a língua materna da maioria dos pilotos a quem dou aulas. Os pilotos tendem a utilizar essa expressão de maneira equivocada quando querem dizer que é impossível fazer algo, como por exemplo, quando não teriam condições de pousar devido ao mau tempo, ou quando não seria pssível tomar determinada atitude por alguma razão.

Para que essa ideia soe mais natural em inglês, a melhor solução é usar uma das duas expressões a seguir: “I’m unable to…” ou “I’m not able to…”. É claro, o verbo TO BE tem que ser adaptado de acordo com o sujeito e o contexto (ajustando singular x plural e o tempo verbal), mas soaria melhor e ainda teria o mesmo sentido.

Veja exemplos de uso:

“It was raining so hard that we were unable to land at our destination”.

“If I’m not able to put out the fire, I will land immediately”.

Você consegue pensar em outros exemplos? Vamos praticar em aula!

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Hope in the midst of the chaos

It seems like there’s still a little bit of hope amongst all the chaos in the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti. Yesterday an Australian TV crew found and rescued a young girl from the debris of a collapsed house in Port Au Prince. She is said to have been under the rubble for 68 hours before being recsued, without food or water. Although the rescue of survivors is considered unlikely in Haiti at this time, search parties are still working nonstop to try to find victims.

Watch the video about this inspiring news here:


Esperança em meio ao caos

Parece que ainda há um restinho de esperança em meio ao caos provocado pelo terremoto no Haiti. Ontem, uma equipe de TV australiana localizou e resgatou uma menininha dos destroços de uma casa em Porto Príncipe. Ela aparentemente ficou debaixo dos escombros por 68 horas antes de ser resgatada, sem comida ou água. Embora o resgate de sobreviventes seja considerado improvável no Haiti a esta altura, as equipes de busca ainda trabalham incessantemente na procura de vítimas.

Assista ao vídeo sobre essa história inspiradora acima.

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Expression of the week: no matter what

“No matter what” (from “no matter what happens”)

Equivalent in Portuguese: “De qualquer maneira”.

Sample sentences:

“We have to land no matter what. We’re running out of fuel”.

“That passenger is endangering the flight. He should be stopped no matter what.”

Can you come up with more examples? Try!

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Tragedy strikes: earthquake in Haiti

The tragic events in Haiti the past few days have raised a crucial question: as a pilot, would you be prepared to deal with an earthquake? Let’s say you are on board a crowded plane at the threshold, just waiting for take-off, and suddenly there is an earth tremor. What would you do? How would you assess the damage to the aircraft? How would you deal with the passengers? What safety measures would you have to take to make sure everyone was safe? Would you be able to return to the gate or would you have to command an emergency evacuation on the tarmac?

Let’s hope you never have to face this situation is real life, but you may be asked to answer these questions in your ANAC test. The relevant vocabulary in this case is about parts of the aircraft, damage to the aircraft and airport structure, technical and emergency procedures, types of injuries… are you able to talk about it? Let’s practice in class!

You can see more about this tragedy in Haiti here, here and here. =====================================================================================================

Tragédia: terremoto no Haiti

Os trágicos eventos no Haiti nos últimos dias levantaram uma questão crucial: como piloto, você estaria preparado para lidar com um terremoto? Digamos que você está a bordo de uma aeronave lotada, na cabeceira da pista, aguardando a decolagem, e de repente acontece um tremor de terra. O que você faria? Como avaliaria os danos à aeronave? Como lidaria com os passageiros? Que medidas de segurança teria que tomar para garantir a segurança de todos? Você conseguiria retornar ao terminal ou precisaria comandar uma evacuação de emergência ali mesmo, na pista?

Espero que você nunca tenha que enfrentar essa situação na vida real, mas você pode ter que responder a essas perguntas na ma. O vocabulário relevante nesse caso é o de equipamentos médicos a bordo, tipos de ferimentos, procedimentos de segurança, danos à aeronave e ao aeroporto… você consegue falar sobre tudo isso em inglês? Vamos praticar em aula!

Veja acima mais informações sobre a tragédia no Haiti.

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