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Review ~ Flightpath

A really useful aviation textbook for pilots and Air Traffic Control Officers needing an ICAO Level 4 qualification.
Reviewed for by Lara Promnitz-Hayashi


ATC, ATCOs, ETOPS, METAR, TAF, ATIS, ALAR, ILS and VOR DME all sound like something we would be writing in a text message or internet lingo. In actual fact they are all aviation acronyms and can be found in Cambridge’s new Aviation English textbook, Flightpath, by Philip Shawcross. Flightpath is a course for students who are pilots and ATCOs (Air Traffic Control Officers) who need an International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) level 4 qualification. Shawcross has been working in Aviation English for almost 40 years, so he knows his stuff. To add to the authenticity of this textbook, it was reviewed by a panel of aviation experts.

While the topics are a little daunting at first, when you look through the detailed contents page of this textbook you can quickly see that it is really well laid out and easy to use. The text itself is divided into four parts with a total of 10 units, and each unit is divided into Operational topics, Communication topics and Language content. The contents page also lists which section to view on the DVD. At the end of each section there is a review for reinforcement. The units are divided into Introduction (Language and Communication in Aviation), Hazards on the Ground (Ground Movements, Communication on the Ground, and Runway Incursions), En-route (Environmental Threats, Level Busts, and Decision Making) and Approach and Landing (Approach and Landing Incidents, Handling Technical Malfunction, and Reducing Approach and Landing Risks).

The content throughout the textbook is suitable for Air Traffic Controllers and also pilots with the goal of achieving ICAO operational Level 4 proficiency. Shawcross states that while phraseology is used throughout the textbook it is not the object of the book; “plain language in an operational context” is, and this can be seen throughout Flightpath. Having said that, I would say that the language in the textbook is not suitable for beginner-level language learners and would definitely be more suited to high intermediate and advanced students. I was even lost in a few places myself, but as the textbook has a lot of practical activities and explanations I quickly understood a lot of terminology. I can now actually understand a lot of the jargon used in airplane disaster investigation TV programmes.

Each unit has listening activities, reading activities, a grammar focus and vocabulary exercises. I like how each unit begins with a Lead-in which sets the way for the unit’s content and gives students the chance to discuss their own experiences. The listening activities are either on the CD or on the DVD. What I like about the DVD is that the activities are taken from real training videos. The reading activities are taken from authentic texts, which make them much more interesting to students. I also like that at the end of each unit there is a progress report for students to self-reflect and identify areas they would like to improve further.

Flightpath is a good size as it fits easily into your bag and is not heavy. It is very detailed and uses authentic contexts, pictures, maps, diagrams and dialogue. All of the audio recordings and videos can be found on the three audio CDs and DVD. Detailed audioscripts are found at the back of the textbook. As the textbook focuses on pilot and ATCOs interactions there are a lot of authentic pairwork activities in a special section at the back. The activities are separated into ones for pilots and ATCOs, making it easy to find the appropriate activity and role. There is also an Answer Key for each unit and a short glossary of acronyms and abbreviations.

Students can go to the Cambridge website ( and find a detailed glossary of aviation terms, case studies which also come with worksheets and teachers notes and the DVD transcripts. Overall I think this textbook is great and is formatted in an authentic and interesting way. I think this makes it a positive experience not only for students but also for teachers. Definitely a must have for aviation students.

Reviewed by Lara Promnitz-Hayashi for March 2012

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