Posts Tagged ‘describing pictures for aviation exam’

English learning advice from Aviation English Asia.

Article written by Michael Egerton

In a previous article, Describing pictures in ICAO Aviation English tests we learned some techniques to describe pictures.  One of the lexical sets we said was necessary was vocabulary to describe an aircraft.  In this article we will focus on how to describe the physical structure of a fixed wing aircraft, and also cover some grammatical structures you can use to relate the information.  Of course many pilots will already be familiar with these words but it is worth ensuring that you can use the words with correct grammar, eg prepositions.

Most aircraft have the following major components.

  • fuselage
  • wings
  • empennage
  • landing gear
  • power plant

Describing the fuselage and substructure

The fuselage is the central structure of an aircraft and includes the cabin, cockpit and area for storing cargo.  When describing the fuselage also consider the materials it is made of, and how it is constructed.  You should also know the following vocabulary:

truss, longeron, members, tubing, cross-brace, monococque, aluminium, skin, formers, bulkheads, airframe

Structure: You can also use the following verbs to describe the fuselage.  Be aware of the form of the verb eg feature / features, and also if there are any necessary prepositions that go with the verb.

  • The truss-type fuselage is constructed of steel or aluminum tubing.
  • The Warren truss features longerons, as well as diagonal and vertical web members
  • Small airplanes generally utilize aluminum alloy tubing
  • A monocoque design uses stressed skin to support almost all imposed loads
  • The monocoque construction mainly consists of the skin, formers, and bulkheads.
  • The substructure reinforces the stressed skin by taking some of the bending stress from the fuselage.
  • On single-engine aircraft, the engine is usually attached to the front of the fuselage
  • A firewall is made of heat-resistant material such as stainless steel.

Describing the wings

Describing a wing in English

The main spar of a de Havilland DH60 Moth

Wings are attached at either the top, middle, or lower part of the fuselage and are referred to as high-wing, mid-wing or low-wing.  You should know the following vocabulary:

bi-plane, mono-plane, external braces / wing struts, cantilever, semi-cantilever, spar, ribs, aileron, stringers, ailerons,
wing flaps, trusses, I-beams, leading edge, trailing edge, fuel tanks, faring
, airfoil/aerofoil, flush, port, starboard, inboard, outboard

Structure: In addition to being able to identify the above parts of an aircraft, you should be able to describe it’s function.  You can use the following structures:

  • wing struts transmit the flight and landing loads through the struts to the main fuselage structure
  • wing ribs determine the shape and thickness of the wing
  • ailerons create aerodynamic forces that cause the aircraft to roll
  • flaps are used to increase the lifting force of the wing for takeoff and landing
  • The flaps are normally flush with the wing´s surface during cruising flight

Describing the tail-section (empennage)

The empennage includes the entire tail section, consisting of the vertical and horizontal stabiliser. Basic vocabulary to describe the tail section includes:

rudder, elevator, stabilator, trim tabs, antiservo , tail fin, inclining, forward swept/sweeping, livery, vertical, horizontal, leading edge, trailing edge,

Exercise: Describe the following picture using 5 of the words above.

Credit: Wikipedia

Describe the tail section of this aircraft

Describing the landing gear

Aircraft can have different types of landing gear eg wheels, skis or floats depending on whether the aircraft is used on land, water or snow.  When describing landing gear consider what that particular type of landing gear is designed for.  Essential vocabulary includes:

nose wheel, tail wheel, tyres, tricycle, floats, skis, undercarriage, fixed gear, retractable, extending, wheel well, shock absorbers, pontoons, skid, conventional “taildragger”, tail strike, skid, tail bumper, spats, axle, wheel assembly, tracks, pivoting, steering,

Exercise: Describe the following pictures using 5 of the words listed above.

How would you describe the landing gear on this aircraft?

How would you describe the landing gear on this aircraft?

Describing landing gear on an aircraft

What stage of flight is this Airbus A330 in? How can you tell?

Advice for describing aircraft in ICAO English tests

There is a lot of vocabulary listed in this article, some of which you may already be familiar with – but learning English is not just a matter of remembering vocabulary.  In order to communicate effectively in English you must be able to use vocabulary with reasonably accurate grammar.  Try to create sentences using the structures presented above, or compare pictures of different types of aircraft.  There are a lot of interesting pictures on websites such as airliners.net that you can practice describing.

What to do next

For feedback and more information about Aviation English Asia’s courses please visit http://aviationenglish.com.  We can help you improve your English whether you are an experienced pilot, a cadet entry pilot, a controller, aerospace engineer or flight attendant, with custom courses designed specifically for your needs.  If you haven’t already please join the Aviation English mailing list for instant access to free demonstration units of the ICAO Aviation English Online course, special offers and details of courses in your area.

Of course, feel free to leave a comment or even a suggestion for a future article.  We value all of your feedback.


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English learning advice from Aviation English Asia.

Article written by Michael Egerton

In this article you are going to learn techniques to describe pictures in ICAO English tests.  As mentioned in a previous article, The ICAO English test – guidance and advice, describing a picture is a common part of many ICAO English tests.

What language skills are required?

Quite often the pictures will be of unusual or unexpected events such as damage to an aircraft, a crash/collision or a malfunctioning piece of the aircraft’s equipment.  You will need to develop your vocabulary so that you can easily explain these situations without being lost for words.  As a pilot or controller you will need vocabulary to describe

  1. each part of an aircraft,
  2. weather and time of day,
  3. the physical layout of an airfield and
  4. various types of damage that can occur.

You will also need a good command of verb tenses so that you can describe:

  • what is happening now
  • what has happened before
  • what is likely to happen in the future

You should also learn the language skills needed to explain why these events have occurred.  This will involve (among others) modal verbs of possibility/probability, conjunctions and infinitives of purpose.

You should also use prepositions to describe the physical location, or path of movement of the various objects in the picture.

Phrases for describing pictures

Start by giving a brief description of each picture.

  • The picture/photo shows …
  • This is a picture of …
  • In this picture I can see …
  • This is an incident that happened …

There are different phrases you can refer to parts of each pictures. For example:

  • on the left / on the right (hand side)
  • in the background / in the foreground
  • behind  x / in front of x

Depending on the picture you will need to use appropriate tenses.  For example:

  • an aircraft is trying to land (present continuous because it is something happening at the moment the photo was taken)
  • the aircraft in this picture has collided with a ground vehicle (present perfect because it is something that happened in the recent past with a result in the present)
  • a ground vehicle is about to make a wrong turn that will surely cause a problem for aircraft that are landing.

The assessor might also ask you to give your opinion about the picture.

  • In my opinion …
  • I think that …
  • It looks like …
  • x seems to be …

Exercise

  1. Take a look at the following picture for 30 seconds.
  2. Describe it in as much detail as possible for 90 seconds
  3. Explain how you think the situation occurred for 30 seconds.
  4. Post your description as a comment on our blog.  We will review it and give you feedback.

Five tips for describing pictures in the ICAO English test

1.  Keep it simple
Try to avoid complicated expressions or grammatical structures if you are not sure how to use them.   Don’t waffle (speak unnecessarily about a topic), and if you have nothing to say it’s better to wait for the assessor to prompt you.

2.  Ask the assessor for an explanation if you don’t understand the task
If you don’t understand what you are supposed to do, ask the assessor to explain. For example, you could say:

  • Could you repeat the question, please?
  • I’m sorry, could you explain what the word …. means ?
  • Could you please ask the question in another way?

3.  Use full sentences
Avoid answers which are single words or answers that sound like a list of bullet points.  Demonstrate that you know how to form sentences correctly  and can use a range of structures to express yourself.

4.  Be aware of the time limits
When you are asked to describe a photo and explain why something has happened, make sure that you leave some time for explaining your own opinion if that is a required part of the task.  You should also avoid rushing, as speaking slowly and clearly is an essential skill in aeronautical communications.  You will have better pronunciation if you slow down and don’t swallow your words.

5.  Practice
Before the ICAO English test, practice describing pictures with a colleague (if you already know someone who will also be taking the speaking test, ask him/her to practice with you).  Students at Aviation English Asia are a friendly bunch who really make the effort to help each other.  Of course, all our English courses for ICAO compliance offer thorough practice of these skills in each unit.

What to do next

For feedback and more information about Aviation English Asia’s courses please visit http://aviationenglish.com. We can help you improve your English whether you are an experienced pilot, a cadet entry pilot, a controller, engineer or flight attendant, with custom courses designed specifically for your needs.  If you haven’t already please join the Aviation English mailing list for instant access to free demonstration units of the ICAO Aviation English Online course, special offers and details of courses in your area.