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"We are the protagonists of our stories called life, and there is no limit to how high we can fly."

Type rated on A330, B747-400, B747, B757, B767, B737, B727. International Airline Pilot / Author / Speaker. Dedicated to giving the gift of wings to anyone following their dreams. Supporting Aviation Safety through training, writing, and inspiration.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Susan Lagier

Fridays Fabulous Flyer! 

Teaching Pilots 
The International Language! 

Fascinating people touch Aviation in many ways, and Susan is one of them. She is helping pilots reach their dreams by teaching them English. Those of us who speak English sometimes take for granted that our language is the International language of Aviation. Imagine the learning curve of not only learning how to fly, but learning a foreign language. Susan is helping those pilots to become proficient in English. I know you will enjoy her story as much as I did.

"My name is Susana Lagier, but everybody calls me Susan. I’m a mother of twin girls and a grandmother of three children (two girls and a boy) and one baby boy coming in July. In my free time I enjoy painting, walking, knitting, weaving and most of all, reading.

I’m not a pilot. And what’s more, it never occurred to me to be one. However, for an inexplicable reason I have always been drawn into the aviation world and I have been so much involved with pilots that it feels as if I were one of them.

I have two nationalities: I was born in Argentina but I am also Swiss. Though Spanish and French were spoken at home, my language was English. I loved English and for me it was clear that I had to do something connected with it. At University I studied to be a Public Translator, but what I really enjoyed was teaching. I had my first English student when I was 16 and I have never stopped since then. I worked at schools, at home giving private tuition and for the last 30 years I have been an oral examiner for the University of Cambridge.

It was 20 years ago that I started teaching English to Luciano, a pilot who was at the very beginning of his career, struggling to log hours and have enough to apply to an airline. Today he is an A330 Captain of Aerolineas Argentinas with 12,000 hours (half of them logged in Airbus). He brought his friends to me and that’s how I started working with more and more pilots that came from different companies (Aerolineas Argentinas, Austral, LAN Argentina) or pilots that were and/or are at the beginning of their careers

From the very beginning I realized about the importance of speaking English as the only one language in aviation communication so I started studying everything connected with phraseology, planes, airport layouts, CRM, emergencies, weather conditions… and reading everything that fell into my hands. Some years ago the FAR/AIM was my number-one-reader. I don’t know how to fly a plane but I could surely do the communication with any tower in the world!

I was very happy when ICAO implemented the English Proficiency Examination for Pilots and ATCs. Having been an examiner for such a long time, I had no difficulty understanding what was expected at each level and I even contacted authorities from ICAO to clarify some issues. And I was even happier I had studied so much as my goal was helping pilots, mainly those who flew international. 

I have my reservations as regards how pilots and ATCs are assessed, not only in Argentina but in other countries as well. This is a process that will take longer than was expected because there has been some resistance. Not everybody enjoys studying, not everybody thinks it is fair that English was chosen as the language, etc, etc. But as I tell my pilots: Take this as a hobby… something you do in your free time, something that helps you keep your mind alert and your brain young, something that helps you have your memory trained! Imagine being in an emergency: on top of having to deal with one million things in the flight deck, you have to try and remember how to say something to the ATC in English?????? This would be crazy and totally unnecessary if you speak English naturally!

When dealing with the subject of communication, I would like to say that pilots who have to learn English in order to fly make a great effort. For some, it is relatively easy but unfortunately, this is not the case for everyone. 

I think communication can be improved in the long run, but we need a lot of cooperation from those who are English native speakers in that they could help a lot if they spoke a bit more slowly and used phraseology at all times, if they were a bit more patient and a bit more formal. Colloquialism and dialects should be totally banned in this type of communication. 

And non-native speakers should cooperate by studying more and trying to keep up their level. I am convinced this is a two-way issue and I truly believe in team-work. Pilots and ATCs should work in team. After all, everybody should bear in mind that speaking only one language is nothing but a question of safety and this concerns us all!

Why do I keep teaching English? 

Why is it so satisfying? It’s amazing how well my students can make me feel when they pass an exam, when they are proud of their first communication in English, when they can relay messages in the middle of the ocean, when they have an urgency and they can solve it, say by speaking to a mechanic in Rome, a controller in JFK or you name it, when they see their own improvement. Every time they achieve something, I feel it is my own achievement! And yes… I teach them to speak English but they teach me so many things! Through them I see the world and most importantly: I fly a plane!"

 Please Join Me in Thanking Susan 
For Providing a GREAT service to Pilots Worldwide
and assisting Aviation Safety!

Susan is absolutely correct, 
speaking one language is essential
 for Aviation Safety!

Update... look what she is using for one of her books:
Lessons of another Kind

Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene 



    1. Thank you for your comment Euge. Susan is an incredible lady!!

  2. I am Luciano, Susan's first pilot student.
    I realized what English is for aviation very early in my carreer. But, as I do today, I thought that a whole process of exams and preparation is the only way to reach a level that will make anyone feel really confident in the end.
    That is why I went to Susan's and sat for FCE and CAE Cambridge exams. But in the whole process a friendship was born and Susan began flying lessons on the ground, which took her to what she is today... a mentor and great supporter during every hard and crucial moment every pilot who was in her hands has lived.
    Since I was flying the Islander, when I was in ALTA with the B1900 and then in Aerolineas Argentinas flying B732/A340/B735/738 and now Captain Instructor of A330, she knew how to keep her type ratings current too... so thanks and congrats to Miss Susan and her Sunflower institute.

    1. Luciano, Thank you so much for the wonderful comment!! And I can tell by your writing that she taught you very well!! And now you are an instructor on my plane, so I know who to contact with questions. :) Thank you so much for the wonderful comment.

  3. Hi! My name is Martin. I'm captain B737NG in Aerolineas Argentinas, and I'm susan's student. Susan is an incredible teacher and person. I really enjoy her classes and is very beatiful feel that my English level was improved since a year ago!! Thank you so much Susan and congrats!!

    1. Hello Martin, Thank you so much for your comment and I am so happy to hear from her students, and your English is excellent too. Fly safe and thank you so much!

  4. My name is Anibal Juan Pena, I have been learning English With Susan since April 2011. I met since then an excellent teacher and a person, who has helped me improve my English.
    Thank you so much Susan!!!!!

    1. Hi Anibal, Thank you so much for your comment and your thanks to Susan! She's an awesome lady!!

  5. Hi, my name is Jorge Castro and I'm a captain instructor of B-737NG of Aerolineas Argentinas.
    My first contact with Susan was 1998, I wanted to apply for Aerolineas and she helped me a lot to be prepared for the exam.
    At that moment my level wasn't good at all, and thanks her I can improved a lot.
    We work really very hard, and thanks that, I could pass.
    Since that moment we became friends, I found and incredibly woman apart of a great teacher.
    I always enjoy a lot her class.
    Thanks for so much.

    1. Jorge, I am so glad that Susan was able to help you pass and achieve such great success in your career. And when the teacher becomes a friend, learning soars to new levels. Thank you so much for your comment!

  6. My name is Bianchetti Charly I work in Aerolineas Argentinas as a Captain flying the 737. Susan has been my teacher since I started to fly in Aerodot as an instructor, she teaches me English but also she teach me about life. We share a lot of good moments. English is such important as being trainees in simulator, communications it's the goal for an excellent teamwork. You can have a lot of skill but if you don't have nothing of training you are nothing.

    1. Charly, what an amazing comment. To have a teacher that will teach you about life is the best there is. You are very fortunate to know Susan.

  7. I must have been Susan's first English student... or 2nd one... a long time ago...

    1. Patricia, how fortunate you are. And her for knowing you. Thank you so much for your comment.


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