For most pilots, learning to talk on the radio is a challenge – right up there with crosswind landings on the list of struggles. While learning to crab and slip still requires plenty of time in the airplane, some new technology makes it much easier to perfect those communication skills. The latest example is PlaneEnglish, an app for Android and iOS devices that uses speech recognition to coach you through different scenarios.
PlaneEnglish starts with a review of basic communication tips, then offers a variety of scenarios to learn and perfect your skills. The app includes 65 airports and hundreds of potential scenarios, so you can practice getting an IFR clearance at a Class D airport, talking to tower at a Class C airport, or making position reports at a non-towered airport. The scenarios are complete with taxiway diagrams and both audio and text transmissions so it’s a very realistic training experience.
The unique feature is how PlaneEnglish listens to your replies and then grades your performance. So instead of just talking out loud and hoping you got it right, the app uses sophisticated voice recognition technology to score each scenario on phraseology, speech rate, and delay. If you say “nine” instead of “niner,” the app will point it out. Likewise if you talk too fast or you don’t start with “Lafayette Tower.” When you’ve worked through some scenarios, you can take quizzes to test your knowledge.
We’ve found the app to be both powerful and easy to use. The app’s voice sounds like a computer, but it’s perfectly understandable and after a few sessions you really do feel like you’re talking to ATC. It’s a great way to learn proper radio procedures, because you’re actually talking (instead of just reading about it). This makes it a great way to turn theory into practice, and since it requires nothing more than a phone or tablet, there’s no complicated setup or additional equipment to buy.
PlaneEnglish is 100% app-based, so no internet connection is required. The app is free to download from the App Store or the Google Play Store. To unlock all the features, you’ll need to purchase one-year subscription for $59.99.
You can see how it works in this video demo: