The Mechanics of Teaching Mechanics:
Experiences Teaching Military Aircraft
Technicians with Limited English Language
Dugald Sturges, Bundessprachenamt, Hürth, Germany
English for Naval Aviation Technicians
To develop English language skills in order to prepare naval
aviation technical staff for training on the Lockheed P3-Orion.
- To enable the participants to discuss technical matters
with foreign colleagues in English.
- To enable them to read and understand English-
language technical documentation, with particular emphasis
on the P3-Orion technical manual.
- To refresh and improve their knowledge of general
English in order to improve their communicative competence
in an English-speaking environment.
ASD Simplified Technical English (ASD-STE100)
• One word - one meaning
• Sentence length of no more than 25 words.
• Paragraph length of no more than 6 sentences.
• Noun cluster length of 3 words or less.
• Avoiding missing articles
• Unapproved verbal auxiliaries (passive, progressive,
• Unapproved -ing participles.
•Only one command per sentence.
BEFORE - Original text:
Three phase power is provided by three separate generators.
They are the main source of power for the main ac buses and
the whole electrical power system. Two generators are driven
by the engines and one generator is driven by the auxiliary
power unit (APU).
AFTER - Text rewritten in ASD Simplified Technical
Three generators supply 3-phase electrical power. These
generators are the primary source of power for the primary AC
buses and the electrical power system. The engines operate
two of the generators. The auxiliary power unit (APU) operates
Forty-six service outlets are provided throughout the aircraft to
supply power for electronic/electrical maintenance equipment and
for small appliance use. All outlets are energized whenever power
is supplied to the aircraft electrical system. All AC outlets are 400
cycle. Six 2-prong, 28 VDC service outlets, located at the pilot,
copilot, TACCO, NAV/COMM, port aft observer, and starboard aft
observer stations are provided. Four additional outlets supply 115
VAC power to four-pin receptacles for the pilot, copilot, port aft
observer, and starboard aft observer. Phase A, 115 VAC is
supplied to twenty outlets throughout the aircraft including one 4-
pin receptacle located in the forward radar rack to test the T-414
AMAC control box. The remaining outlets are 3-prong. In addition,
eleven 3-prong outlets supply phase B alternating current. The top
and bottom outlets at the galley are also 3-prong and appliance
power is supplied from the three phases of the main AC bus B
through the galley circuit breaker in the main load center to
individual circuit breakers in the port aft circuit breaker panel.
Kinds of intelligence (according to Gardner):
Descriptive tasks using realia
Describing jobs and processes
You will be shown a picture of some US Navy technicians working
on the power plant of a Lockheed P-3. Look at the picture (or
pictures) closely, and discuss it with your neighbor. Then, in
complete sentences, describe in as much detail as possible what
is happening in the picture. Try to answer questions like:
•What part or component are they working on?
•What are they doing?
•What tool or instruments are they using?
•What particular care, safety precautions, etc. must be taken when
doing this job?
•What else can be seen in the picture?
•What might the technicians be saying to each other?
If you are not sure, then make an “educated guess”.
Descriptive tasks using graphic material to
simulate a working situation
Chopped Duck á la Prop or: Halve Hahn, Valkenburg Style
TWR = Valkenburg Tower (Valkenburg Naval Air Station, Holland)
BLOT02 = a USAF Hercules MC-130P
BLOT02 – Tower, BLOT02.
TWR - BLOT02, go ahead.
BLOT02 – Roger, sir, you’re not going to believe this, but on taxiing out we had a
duck or a large bird fly up and hit one of our propellers. We’re going to need to
shut down temporarily and do a quick inspection of the propeller and the engines
just to make sure things are good.
TWR – BLOT02, you are clear to cancel the clearance and call me back.
BLOT02 - Roger, sir, do you want us to hold position or should we taxi back?
TWR – You can hold position if you want to.
BLOT02 - Roger, sir, we’re going to down speed our number three and number
four engines and leave them at low speed and we’ll shut down one and two and
check them out real quick (...)
Have graphic material
on hand for students to
use in diagnostic /
Aviation Machinist’s Mate Tom
Goodwrench is thinking about his
life. Express his thoughts for him:
I qualified as an Aviation Machinist’s
Mate - because I worked hard.
If I hadn’t worked hard, I wouldn’t
have qualified as an Aviation
SIGNAL DESCRIPTION MEANING RESPONSE
Bomb bay operator: Bomb bay operator:
E Open bomb bay Open bomb bay
Bomb bay operator: Bomb bay operator:
F Close bomb bay Close bomb bay
E. Outside observer: Body bent forward at the waist and arms extended
horizontally, then arms swing downward and in until fingertips touch in front of
the body with elbows bent at approximately 45°.
F. Outside observer: Body bent forward at the waist, hands held with fingertips
touching in front of body and elbows bent at approximately 45°, then arms
swing downward and outward.
Notice the “-ings”
How would you translate these sentences?
Do not enter bomb bay without first verifying that all
hydraulic pumps are secured, the bomb bay safety
pin access door is open, the safety pin is installed,
and ensuring that the cable connecting the safety
pin and door control valve is taut.
If the bomb bay doors are closed with electrical and
hydraulic power applied to the aircraft, shifting the
bomb bay door safety lock lever to the down position
will result in opening of the bomb bay doors.
The following procedures shall be used when
opening and closing the bomb bay doors.
„Es wurden Anlagen von Luftfahrzeugen beschrieben aber
nicht z.B. was später meine Aufgabe ist wie diese Anlage
auseinander oder zusammengebaut wird bzw. repariert
wird. Das Erkennen aus der Vorschrift wie und in welcher
Reihenfolge vorgegangen werden muß fehlte.“
“(Airplane systems were described but not e.g. what my job is going to
be later on how this system is taken apart or put together or repaired.
(We) did not learn from the manual how and in what order to do
A course in Technical English,
not a technical course in English!
Needs analysis, regular checks and mid-course
Methods which build on the specialist intelligence of
the learners to establish a bridge to increase linguistic
Stress on hands-on activities
Descriptive tasks using realia and graphic material to
simulate a working situation
Task-based exercises which employ mathematical,
analytical and diagnostic tasks
Concentration on the language structures actually
encountered in work