WEST LAFAYETTE - Technology intended to help young pilots learn how to better communicate with air traffic controllers has caught the attention of the United States Air Force and earned the two Purdue University graduates, who developed the software, a $50,000 federal grant.

The creators of the simulator technology PlaneEnglish have been awarded a Small Business Innovation Research award. The SBIR program, administered through the U.S. Small Business Administration, encourages small businesses to compete for federal research funding.

Purdue says this award is sponsored by the U.S. Air Force and AFWERX, the Air Force technology and innovation hub.

“We are in discussions with Air Force personnel…to understand their vision for the future of training, to share our technology and to identify how we can best contribute,” said Muharrem Mane, PlaneEnglish creator and alumnus from Purdue’s School of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

Mane and his colleague, Eren Hadimioglu, who is also a Purdue alum., developed the technology that is now used in dozens of airports across the U.S.

The software guides users through various interactions with air traffic control on every phase of flight. Users are required to respond properly in specific situations, using the correct phraseology, speech rate and other factors.

While the software is geared towards private and commercial pilots, the developers say it can be adapted for military training. 

“Putting PlaneEnglish in the hands of airmen can improve flight training and will serve them well in live flying and when faced with emergencies or unusual situations where the ability to have one less task to actively think about can be a great advantage,” Mane said.

Mane says there can be as many as five or six exchanges back and forth with air traffic control. Then users are graded on those responses.

Click here to read about the broader applications of PlaneEnglish.