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ORAC
8th Jun 2006, 07:21
The Grauniad: Plane's mayday call missed due to pilot's poor English

Air traffic controllers at Heathrow airport failed to understand two distress calls from an Italian airliner carrying 104 people because the pilot's English pronunciation was poor. A report published today will reveal that the Alitalia jet suffered a near complete loss of its navigational equipment in its final approach to London.

The control tower did not understand a mayday message from the plane's captain and did not initiate usual procedures, which include putting the airport fire service on alert and clearing the runway. Although the plane, which flew from Milan, landed safely the incident is likely to prompt concern about the quality of English spoken in cockpits. Low-cost airlines are looking increasingly far afield to recruit crew, who routinely speak English as a second or third language.

The Air Accidents Investigation Branch said the Alitalia Airbus A320 left Italy last year with one of its navigation systems out of order. On the plane's final approach to Heathrow, a second navigational system failed and the landing was aborted.

While circling the pilot transmitted an emergency message known as a "pan-pan" call and reported the failure. But air traffic controllers did not understand until another aircraft intervened. The report said the pilot had to land manually on a "point and shoot" basis and transmitted a more serious mayday call asking for priority.

The report said: "The mayday element of this call was not heard by the controller. This was probably due to a combination of the commander not announcing the mayday using the expected protocol and his heavily accented English, rather than any failing within air traffic control."

Language skills of aircraft crew have become an issue in the industry as budget airlines have scrambled to find staff for rapidly growing fleets.

A spokesman for the British Airline Pilots Association said: "Balpa is concerned whenever there is a case of English not being properly spoken or understood. There are sometimes cases like this, although thankfully they're very rare." He said there was a back-up system in most jets allowing pilots to use an electronic distress "squawk" instead.

An Alitalia spokeswoman said the incident did not put passengers' safety at risk.

hetfield
8th Jun 2006, 07:34
"point and shoot"
:)
I like that one.

Gonzo
8th Jun 2006, 09:03
http://www.aaib.dft.gov.uk/cms_resources/Airbus%20A320-200,%20I-BIKE%2006-06.pdf

planeenglish
8th Jun 2006, 09:18
Maybe with this I can wake everyone up a little more. I've been pushing for years that proper aviation English be taught to operational personnel. The new standards here are being ignored by almost all, except the people who actually have to use it....hughesyd...know what I mean now????:ugh:

Watching Top Gun doesn't make you a pilot, nor does it teach you the proper language skills.

Best to all,
PE

klink
8th Jun 2006, 09:20
Maybe we should also do some practice Pans next time we are going into LHR ? :}

planeenglish
8th Jun 2006, 09:22
:D
Good "man". This is also part of aviation English.

Best,
PE

Clarence Oveur
8th Jun 2006, 09:42
How many native English speakers actually speak aviation English? Very few, if any, I would suggest.

planeenglish
8th Jun 2006, 09:51
Actually, from what I have researched, the British ATC at London Heathrow and Gatwick are among the best. This is what I have heard in my experience.

I am an advocate for lobbying the FAA and other "native" speaking countries on the need to not only break the ba...errr..backs of the non-native speakers to get their acts together on the airwaves regarding radiotelephony standards/aviation English but also to instruct monolingual speakers of the needs and necessities of a standard aviation or International English on the frequencies.

What are your opinions?

I would appreciate your responses,
Regards,
PlaneEnglish

Looooong haul
8th Jun 2006, 09:56
Language skills of aircraft crew have become an issue in the industry as budget airlines have scrambled to find staff for rapidly growing fleets.

Since when is Alitalia a budget airline scrambling for staff?? I think they have too many and are in the process of getting rapidly smaller!! :=

klink
8th Jun 2006, 09:58
Actually I think the LHR controllers do a fantastic job, although it sounds like they have a metal bucket over their head while transmitting.:}
For pure clearness, my experience -as a non-native English speaker- gives the highest score to the Germans.

fortuna76
8th Jun 2006, 10:10
I speak a very high level of English for a non native English person. However I have been caught out a few times by the controllers in the UK using expressions which are only known to native English speakers. And outside the London sector there are a number of controllers who have a heavy accent of their own, be it in English.

Yes offcourse we all need to have the proper level of English. But just pointing the finger at the foreigners is not just the solution. It strikes me that every time this issue pops up here, it is the guys that have no other language but there own, that are very critical about the foreigners. It is essential that we start working the problem, with simple r/t. Also some of the London controllers may want to slow down their rate of speech to say 100 words per minute, instead of the odd 200 I get sometimes. And yes we do need language course as part of the pilot program for non native speakers. (maybe we can exchange it for some of that great stuff about binaire counting system, or the function of scramjets.....).

Again these are no excuses for the case described above, but the problem goes a lot deeper then simply an Italian with a heavy accent. I do know NATS is taking this issue very seriously, given the recent publications on this issue.

Thanks for your understanding!

(go on then, tell me how many spelling errors in this post.... :E )

Farmer 1
8th Jun 2006, 10:15
(go on then, tell me how many spelling errors in this post.... )

Far, far fewer than many native English speakers, Fortuna. I am very envious of you.

1985
8th Jun 2006, 10:26
In my experience, on the whole foreign pilots speak very good english, it's just a very small minority that need to improve. I try to slow down for non-native speakers and use less instructions because you are aware that they don't speak english as their first language.

planeenglish
8th Jun 2006, 10:27
First of all, your English is better than some native English speakers, I put my spell-check to test every day. :O

There are linguistic studies on monolingual speakers not being effective communicators. (Listen to President Bush!) As I wrote before, I feel all aviation personnel should be taught in aviation English procedures. I have spoken to authorities about this and make my voice heard at all meetings. I think that the FAA is researching it. I know that they are aware.

ICAO says the standard radiotelephony procedures do not cover all areas of operations, i.e. unusual/abnormal operations. So, all these situations for aviation "plain language" as ICAO call it should be taught to ALL aviation personnel regardless of their native tongue.

I know a school that is specializd in teaching aviation English did proficiency testing on a native English speaker. This aviation operational employee was rated a level three (pre-operational) on the ICAO rating scale. It is awareness by all, especially those who speak English as a native langauge to make themselves clear. Miscommunications happen every day, everywhere.

PE

ray cosmic
8th Jun 2006, 13:25
The other day I received a company safety bulletin with in it a 3 minute quiz from NATS regarding RT.
Funny thing was, the answers provided were quite different from what I learned in school in the Netherlands 10 years ago.

Examples:
line up clearance behind landing:
me: xx1234 behind landing short final line up 09 and wait behind
NATS expects: behind landing on short final line up and wait 09 xx1234

me: level one-hundred
NATS expects: level one-zero-zero

And a couple more of these..

As soon as I find the thing back I'll try to provide more of these..
I'm trying to say that even the basics are apparently different!

chuks
8th Jun 2006, 13:48
The section of the US Government responsible for RT is the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), not the FAA. I was amused to see my German RT licence annotated 'Issued on the basis of FAA licence number...' which was total BS.

There I had to do a rather thorough test in order to use German, done with the Ministry for Post and Telecommunications. That involved a run-through of an imaginary CVFR flight from Hannover to Bremen, from calling for start-up to parking on the ramp at destination. For an American RT licence I just had to send in a little postcard which came back stamped. Full marks to the Germans on this one.

I just did the British RT test, again with an imaginary flight. Of the two the German test was more thorough but the British one would suffice, I guess.

There was a high-profile crash at Kennedy a few years ago when a crew from South America ran out of fuel. The report had the Captain, with no English, unable to get the FO to call a Mayday, so that they were given normal vectors instead of priority handling. That one was not strictly down to lack of English but it must have been a major factor.

The running joke down in south Florida was the guys up at Opa-Locka, trainees from the Americas. Every so often the tower would instruct one to hold short when he would just reply, 'Royer!' and give it the berries. I found one wandering around, terminally bewildered, on short finals for 09L at Miami International when he must have been looking at Krome Avenue and the vastness of the Glades without looking the other way to see a rather large international airport!

Nigeria, a few years ago, had to tell a few guys to go back home to eastern Europe when it seemed that their English was too scanty, so it's not just a problem in the developed world.

threemiles
8th Jun 2006, 15:27
The report leaves open questions to me.

The commander acknowledged this instruction and called
“GOING AROUND, REQUEST A HOLDING PATTERN
OVERHEAD CHILTERN OR OCKAM TO RESOLVE A
LITTLE FAILURE” but ATC were not advised of the
specific nature of the failure."

ATC did not reply to this request nor was the request passed on to the next sector. The specific nature of the failure is certainly not a requirement to issue a clearance as requested.

In the absence of any reply from ATC the crew carried out the standard missed approach procedure.

Despite a later decision to expedite the approach and accept a long low speed vector with high R/T load the original intention of the crew was to resolve a problem in a holding pattern with reduced distraction.

Roffa
8th Jun 2006, 15:39
me: level one-hundred
NATS expects: level one-zero-zero

You sure about that one?

FL100, spoken as one (wun?) hundred, is correct phraseology at my NATS unit.

planeenglish
8th Jun 2006, 16:08
I wrote this on another thread.

http://www.pprune.org/forums/showthread.php?t=228707
It seems to be relative to location...

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Dear H Peacock,
It seems there are differences in the transmission of FL. CAP413 (edition 16 dated 1 September 2004) states on page 31,
1.4.2.a) When transmitting messages containing aircraft callsigns, altimeter settings, flight levels (with the exception of FL 100, 200, 300 etc. which are expressed as ‘Flight Level (number) HUN DRED’), headings, wind speeds/directions, pressure settings, transponder codes and frequencies, each digit shall be transmitted separately
Whereas ICAO in their The Manual of Radiotelephony (Third edition dated 2006) on page 21,2.4.2 reads,
All numbers, exept as specified 2.4.3, shall be transmitted by pronouncing each digit separately. (2.4.3. specifies for altitude, runway visual range, visibility, cloud height to be pronounced [number] hundred).
I teach my students the CAP 413 communications standards but prepare them for both by using listening exercises with real transmissions where both are used. I have one dandy specimen (isn't there someone crying on one of these threads that scanners are illegal?) of an approach ATC native speaker of English saying, "cleared to FL [number] hundred, FL [number]-zero-zero". This is interesting seeing that he used this method only with non-native speaking pilots. With both American and British pilots he only used "[number] hundred ".
I hope I have cleared the air for you on all levels.

A question for you H Peacock,
I am still trying to understand the NATO Alphabet for the letter "P". In Australia last week I heard PaPah but in most transmissions I have heard it is pronounced "Papa". Any help you can give me?

Thanks,

Regards,
Plane English

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Last edited by planeenglish : 3rd June 2006 at 23:02.


Best,
PE

JEP
8th Jun 2006, 16:17
FL 100 spoken as one (wun?) hundred is correct in the UK - but not standard ICAO phraseology.

Ref Supplement submitted by UK to ICAO Annex 10, VOL 2.

flufdriver
8th Jun 2006, 16:48
I suppose all of us that fly internationally and through various language areas are accustomed to listening carefully, what I find is that many times when a controller keys his/her mike to transmit, you can hear a lot of other personell speaking that are in the vicinity of the controller speaking to you.

South Florida is notorious for that!

fluf

foghorn
8th Jun 2006, 17:09
line up clearance behind landing:
me: xx1234 behind landing short final line up 09 and wait behind
NATS expects: behind landing on short final line up and wait 09 xx1234


Isn't UK phraseology "after the landing..., again in exception to ICAO?

UK phraseology is mandated by CAA SRG, not NATS!

RYR-738-JOCKEY
8th Jun 2006, 18:11
Finally, the language issue is addressed. If a pilot is unable to communicate a distress or an emergency situation, then he is a crap pilot.:mad: Italians, spaniards...they mess it all up. Both on ground and in the air. Try to fly into Bergamo or Ciampino when it's busy and with **** weather...god..you get at least three different approach clearances in an almost-impossible-to -understand english. "Decen transichn levl seventifive, traffic twelv, too tousand, cleerd ils one five, towr wun-too-wun-sefen, deesreegard, cleerd vee-o-r tree-tree.":confused: It seems like the busiest airspace in the world, but they are just messing it all up with their poor pronounciation and southern temper.
This has got to come to an end. (By the way I am non-english).

HEATHROW DIRECTOR
8th Jun 2006, 18:37
<<Isn't UK phraseology "after the landing..., again in exception to ICAO?>>

Sure it. Don't know where ray cosmic got his info but it seems he was wrong on both counts! The "behind" was changed to "after" following a serious incident when a light aircraft entered the runway tight behind a jet and then suffered serious wake problems.

Flame
9th Jun 2006, 07:05
Low-cost airlines are looking increasingly far afield to recruit crew, who routinely speak English as a second or third language...

Language skills of aircraft crew have become an issue in the industry as budget airlines have scrambled to find staff for rapidly growing fleets..

Interesting how they are trying to tie up Low cost / Budget operators into this scenario.... What in Gods name has it to do with Budget carriers is beyond me....seems to me to be a cheap swipe, especially as the company involved was Alitalia:confused:

arcniz
9th Jun 2006, 08:25
I trained in a multi-lingual environment and am very familiar with the many ways that cultural and linguistic differences can scramble aircraft communications.

I have also read a great many 'situation' reports, and have written a fair number as well.

That said, my read of the official report referenced in this matter is that it SEEMS to be more than ordinarily focussed on delegating blame to persons other than the ATC persons involved.

Yes, Italians do speak 'funny'. A little stress might amplify that tendency. But an 8000-hour ATP has likely had quite a few chances to practice and perfect the patois of ATC-speak, so it may not be such a simple case of him speaking badly or unclearly. More likely the mis or non-communication resulted from some bad luck in the timing of the transmissions, plus poor follow-up on both sides of the conversation in clarifying the uncertainties that may have arisen.

Perhaps the answer is not to retrain the aircraft commander, who seems to have done a workmanlike job of salvaging his progressively deteriorating aircraft on a short time-line and then even polishing the success by steering it clear of the active on rollout despite lack of nosewheel steering.

Perhaps the fellow sitting in the padded chair, level at 100 feet or so and travelling at around 0 kts, should be training for a bit greater cross-cultural sensitivity in special situations when things are not going well for the folks out there in the sky.

Magplug
9th Jun 2006, 08:56
All this debate but...... The guy used non-standard R/T and his standard of english was insufficient to make himself understood... And this is a pilot from a European national carrier! The point about LCC's is a valid one. Those carriers who spend the absolute minimum on training must be content with the absolute minimum standard of product at the end of it. The conclusion is inescapable.

More worryingly this aircraft suffered a direct law reversion at 1500' when the gear went down and was subsequently mishandled to the extent that it descended to 2 dots below the glidepath in a low cloudbase of 350', before a G/A was finally executed at only 160'.

An Alitalia spokeswoman said the incident did not put passengers' safety at risk.Who are they trying to kid!
There are a number of elements of this incident that reflect very badly on Alitalia indeed.



P.S. Does anyone understand why Airbus arranged the IR & ADR switches in the order 1/3/2 instead of 1/2/3? I have seen mis-switching several times in the simulator.

Over+Out
9th Jun 2006, 09:12
I have listened to and seen this incident during TRUCE. I do not recall being able to hear the aircraft call MAYDAY. He also said he had a problem which I was not familiar with.
The Controller concerened, in my opinion, did very well in asking another BA A320 to explain the problem.
Don't forget ATCO's no longer have easy access to flight decks to expand their knowledge.

FullWings
9th Jun 2006, 09:43
Looking at the report, it seems there was a reluctance to declare an emergency, in any language. If this had happened in Milan and the conversation had been in Italian, ATC still might not have picked up on the seriousness of their problem as it was described in vague technical terms.

I have a great deal of sympathy for those operating in an English-speaking environment when it is not their first language; however, how difficult is it to remember "MAYDAY, MAYDAY, MAYDAY" or "PAN-PAN..."? (They're French-derived, anyway!) You can always declare an emergency, then 'downgrade' it later on when things are under control but a last minute admission that you're in trouble will not allow those who might be able to help you much time to do anything.

I was taught from my very early days of flying that starting your transmission with Mayday or Pan was the best way of attracting full attention from your audience. You can explain your problem in more detail later but it helps to have the urgency/emergency mindset triggered in those listening as soon as possible.

I'm not getting at the crew, who dealt with an 'interesting' problem and brought it to a safe conclusion, it just seems that actually declaring an emergency is somehow seen as a 'failure' by some. Don't know why? :confused:

planeenglish
9th Jun 2006, 11:07
I trained in a multi-lingual environment and am very familiar with the many ways that cultural and linguistic differences can scramble aircraft communications.
I have also read a great many 'situation' reports, and have written a fair number as well.
That said, my read of the official report referenced in this matter is that it SEEMS to be more than ordinarily focussed on delegating blame to persons other than the ATC persons involved.
Yes, Italians do speak 'funny'. A little stress might amplify that tendency. But an 8000-hour ATP has likely had quite a few chances to practice and perfect the patois of ATC-speak, so it may not be such a simple case of him speaking badly or unclearly. More likely the mis or non-communication resulted from some bad luck in the timing of the transmissions, plus poor follow-up on both sides of the conversation in clarifying the uncertainties that may have arisen.
Perhaps the answer is not to retrain the aircraft commander, who seems to have done a workmanlike job of salvaging his progressively deteriorating aircraft on a short time-line and then even polishing the success by steering it clear of the active on rollout despite lack of nosewheel steering.
Perhaps the fellow sitting in the padded chair, level at 100 feet or so and travelling at around 0 kts, should be training for a bit greater cross-cultural sensitivity in special situations when things are not going well for the folks out there in the sky.

Dear Arcniz, In response I'd like to clarify a couple of things here.

Firstly, Italians don't speak "funny". They speak English sometimes Italian English almost always with an accent reflecting their native langauge. Just like you and I would when we speak their language. It is difficult to avoid.

Also, the cockpit is not meant for practicing anything as far as I have been told. Experience can be gained but do not think the cockpit is the place for the langauge classroom. Standards should be learned in the classroom, tested in the simulator and exercised on the job. This is what I've been on my soap box about for ages. air/ground communications should be learnt by all -native and non native speakers aike-to avoid misinterpretations and confusions such as this.

I honestly feel this "language proficiency problem" in this incident is really the last of the holes in this slice of swiss cheese. Non-standard communications, (I am not a pilot but have consulted with a A320 piot) non-standard operational procedures mixed with busy work load by both ATC and flight crew, bad weather...and the holes go on...pushed this incident. Something worked in keeping it from being an accident. As you say above, bad timing and other "unlucky" factors may have helped.

I firmly agree with you that these things should occur in recurrent training so native speakers and non can be sensitive to code-switching and miscommunications exactly for this reason. You can understand because you trained, as you wrote, in a multilingual situation. It should be best practice to do so.

Eventually, around the end of 2007 when the 5 March 2008 date nears for proof of proficiency as dictated by new ICAO and soon to be adopted JAA standards, people might realize it isn't a money, but safety, issue.



Kindest regards to all,

PE

ray cosmic
9th Jun 2006, 11:49
Sorry all, I got confused of this test and since I posted it here without havin the quiz at hand I posted utter rubbish.
The questions and correct answers were:

In the UK, the correct phraseology for FL 100 is:
a- Flight Level one hundred

You are given a conditional line up clearance of "Bigjet 251 after the landing A320 line up and wait runway 24" What is the correct readback?
a- "After the landing A320, line up runway 24, Bigjet 251"

So, ahem, the first issue is no issue, except for my French collaegues.
The second one, though, I still have a problem with.

Sir George Cayley
9th Jun 2006, 15:19
It's not poor aviation english from pilots that worries me, more the perfect French spoken at CDG:confused:

Sir George Cayley

78deg
9th Jun 2006, 21:34
It is time that RT standards are truly international standards, and that countries like the UK stop filling exceptions. If the UK CAA or the USA FAA want a difference persuade the rest of the world and change it everywhere.

Also native English speakers should set the example for correct RT.

oceancrosser
9th Jun 2006, 21:49
A few years ago an aircraft from my airline was party to a near miss on take-off when an Air France taxied across the runway. This was due to the Air France pilots misunderstanding the instructions to hold short of the runway.

An Air France spokesman came out with this remarkable statement:
"All our pilots are fluent in English". :}

Which is something most of us flying regularly in the same airspace as AF will dispute.

It seems the Alitalia spokesman has his head stuck in the same sand.

BEagle
9th Jun 2006, 22:25
Ah - but all this is as naught compared to the infamous "WHA EEZ YOUR DME SITIA" bellowed from across the other side of the room into a cheap microphone whilst the rest of the shift argue over the Argos v. Domestos footie results in the background.....:rolleyes:

planeenglish
10th Jun 2006, 07:40
CDG:
Tower requesting assistance for one sicks passenger on board Airline 123

Airline 123 confirm 1 6 passesngers needing assistance

Confirm airline 123

emergency equipment arrived...for 16 pax :=

....

A flight inbound for a foreign airport was sent to another because the tower didn't know how to say "there's a dog on the runway". :ugh:

Few Cloudy
11th Jun 2006, 08:42
Seems to me that if someone calls Pan Pan, which is reported to have been the original case here, the ATC controller on duty should prick up his ears, which didn't happen until the crew upgraded to Mayday.

The whole point of these phrases Mayday, Pan (and earlier Securite) is that they are international - regardless of poor English.

A couple of weeks ago we read of a Pan call by an English speaking crew over Madrid not being understood. Now we have a Pan call by a non English crew not being understood in an English environment.

Maybe it is time to review these procedures and make sure we are all familiar with them.

FC.

planeenglish
11th Jun 2006, 08:50
Seems to me that if someone calls Pan Pan, which is reported to have been the original case here, the ATC controller on duty should prick up his ears, which didn't happen until the crew upgraded to Mayday.
The whole point of these phrases Mayday, Pan (and earlier Securite) is that they are international - regardless of poor English.
A couple of weeks ago we read of a Pan call by an English speaking crew over Madrid not being understood. Now we have a Pan call by a non English crew not being understood in an English environment.
Maybe it is time to review these procedures and make sure we are all familiar with them.
FC.
Dear Cloudy, I posted this on the Italian forum. Could you, or someone, try to respond to the questions? I am not an operational expert, I'm not (yet) a pilot but have been teaching English to aviation (flying and non-flying) personnel for some time now and would like to understand a few operational aspects of this mishap.

Also could you please tell me a link or some more info on the Madrid incident. I use these in class often.

I appreciate it. Thanks, PE

My exchange was:

One point to be made and not missed...
It was documented in the report that the communications of the Commander of I-BIKE were well more than sufficient linguistically.
1. The commander acknowledged this instruction and called
“GOING AROUND, REQUEST A HOLDING PATTERN
OVERHEAD CHILTERN OR OCKAM TO RESOLVE A
LITTLE FAILURE” but ATC were not advised of the
specific nature of the failure.Sounds OK to me, no mention of EL proficiency problems...then
2.Following the frequency change, (PE asks here: frequency change means that the ATC has changed or is it the same person as before?)
the commander again requested radar vectors and said
“we require a few minutes to resolve
a little …navigation failure …”. The
controller asked for the message to be repeated, possibly
due to the commander’s heavily accented English, and
subsequently acknowledged the request.
This time, albeit not immediately (they wrote POSSIBLY), so the ATC understood.
AZ got his message through. I ask you would this not just be a procedural problem? To resolve problems we must focus on them not "piddle around" (usare per altre agende...).
Another communication from AZ:
At about 0731 hrs, ATC requested if the aircraft had
a problem. The commander reported that the aircraft
had had “a double inertial reference failure” but the
controller replied that the implications of this were not
understood.
Here the ATC could understand the language but not the operational aspect -implications!
Next:
At about 0734 hrs, he transmitted a PAN
call requesting assistance for a radar vectored approach
to Runway 09L, explaining the aircraft had suffered a
navigation problem. ATC did not respond initially, due
to a double transmission, but another aircraft brought it
to their attention.
ATC was busy not unable to understand English proficiency-note the double transmission WAS NOT the other pilot trying to assist-...
Could an operational person help me understand if this is a problem in procedue and not linguistic performance (on either the part of the pilot or the ATC)?
Also, the other pilot in the communication said “that basically
means that they haven’t got all the
nice bits of nav kit …they are basically
point and shoot .....”.
Could you explain this to me? ..."point and shoot?"

The other pilot was translating a technical problem not language. See the problem for what it is. Alitalia is no different than any other foreign airline, some speak English well, some a little better and -maybe -some worse. It is important that when a problem occurs we ALL pull together to resolve it, properly and leave the mudslinging for the politicians.

The purpose of the new standard is so the proficiency of the pilot and atc in International airspace is at a level that one can "understand and be understood". In situations where there is a congestion of traffic it is important. But we must look at if it was the pronunciation and/or the atc's comprehension...or procedural faults and failings.

Best to all,
PE

thedude
11th Jun 2006, 09:14
Yes there are perhaps a few non-english speaking on RT who because of accents/vocabulary are hard to understand. But, being the standard brit who has a very limited knowledge of second/third language, I am often impressed by those who work in this environment, especially in a non-standard and high stress situation, whilst conversing in a non-native language.
We in the UK, especially in the London TMA, tend to speed up information flow, for obvious reasons, without thought for those who are not native english speakers. In fact there are times when information is passed in such quantity and with such speed that even the native english speakers have to question it again. It's not the end of the world, but some recognision of this should be made.
If communication breaks down completely, then a report should be filed for investigation, which was obviously done in this case. Let's give some credit to the majority of those to who english is the second language (possibly third or fourth) and perform no differently to the you or I. Whilst there has to be a minimum standard we should be giving every assistance to those who are less proficient.:cool:

JW411
11th Jun 2006, 09:51
This is one of my favourite topics. I have until recently been working for a European airline and I have spent a lot of my time and effort in the simulator teaching pilots to keep it very simple when dealing with ATC.

Do we really expect ATC to understand what a double inertial reference problem is or the manifestations thereof? I would suggest that the statement that you have a limited navigation capability or that you can't do an ILS normally might get more of a reaction.

My favourite was the F/O on a LOFT slot who announced that "we are down to emergency level". I promptly asked him what level he wanted to go down to! The answer is to tell ATC that you have suffered an electrical failure and only have the battery left and need to get on the ground quickly. That they will understand.

I don't think this about poor English at all.

GOLF_BRAVO_ZULU
11th Jun 2006, 10:29
Many, many, many years ago, I used to get the feeling that I wasn't talking to the bloke actually flying the aeroplane. It was generally East European airlines and it was the abnormally long delay between giving an instruction and getting a response that gave the suspicion. It could be quite unnerving when there were a lot of active strips on your desk. An explanation I was given was that often the only english speaker on board was a steward. How true that was, I don't know but it certainly felt possible.

GBZ

planeenglish
11th Jun 2006, 10:45
Actually, non-native speaking airlines do have translators on board. They are not usually pilots. The new standards do say that having translators in the tower or in the cockpit does not mean the actual operator of either can have lower than level four proficiency.

I have heard of incidents and/or accidents (can't think of any at the moment) that have occured due to the fact that these translators are not able to understand operations and mistranslate.


It is very likely that you were talking to one of these translators.

Just last week a friend of mine returned from a flight and said that he asked for something that there is no R/T and the ATC said "standby". About 3-4 minutes later a different voice (original ATC was male the next voice was female) asking to repeat. This person was not an ATC it was obvious she was there translating every word.

:ugh:
PE

CargoOne
11th Jun 2006, 13:18
An explanation I was given was that often the only english speaker on board was a steward. How true that was, I don't know but it certainly felt possible.
GBZ

Nice one! Actually Soviet aircraft used to have a dedicated radio operator on flight deck so that was the guy you have been talking to. Obviously he needed some time to relate it to pilots and back. Radio operators have gone (except a few aircraft types) but navigators are still there so you should wait for another 30 years to get a chance to talk to commander ;)

Gerund
11th Jun 2006, 15:25
It is time that RT standards are truly international standards, and that countries like the UK stop filling exceptions. If the UK CAA or the USA FAA want a difference persuade the rest of the world and change it everywhere.

Also native English speakers should set the example for correct RT.

I totally agree with 78deg and was planning to write something similar until I saw his post.

It really is time that ICAO standard RT is used internationally, and that includes in Britain. Surely if the use of 'Pass Your Message' really is that much of a safety issue, it shouldn't be too difficult to get the ICAO standard changed on safety grounds? If ICAO can't be convinced, then leave it as 'Go Ahead' and let's keep our RT here in Britain to an international standard and set some sort of example.

planeenglish
11th Jun 2006, 16:31
Line up into position and hold..............

DOVES
11th Jun 2006, 16:37
No!
You're wrong.
It's: 'Cleared into position and hold'...
And many others, like: 'I god it', 'Cleared down to twelve hundred', 'Change eighteen-seven' etc.
Please FLY SAFELY!
DOVE

planeenglish
11th Jun 2006, 16:39
I was actually making a point in other phraseologies that are dangerous.

PE

cdb
11th Jun 2006, 16:55
Do we really expect ATC to understand what a double inertial reference problem is or the manifestations thereof? I would suggest that the statement that you have a limited navigation capability or that you can't do an ILS normally might get more of a reaction.

As a controller, I'm aware of what an inertial naviagation system is, and I'm disappointed and surprised that the London controller didn't. I also have no idea why the director didn't acknowledge the request for a hold. However, the pilot could certainly have been clearer.

Note that, as soon as air traffic became aware of the emergency, all the stops were pulled out and the A/C were got vectored away.

Until reading the topic, I wouldn't have known how to answer either. So, he's lost two INS. I thought most glass cockpit A/C had three. And, what about the onboard GPS, or flying on VOR/DME or other instruments? Do commercial pilots lose all the skills they practised on their inital IR? He mentioned losing his inertial navigation, not his displays.

As to the EGPWS warning, I'm pretty sure Heathrow still has PAPIs, but even without them shouldn't a jet crew be capable of flying a visual approach without going dangerously low? Or if they wanted "Point and shoot" they could have asked for a SRA. I appreciate the cloudbase was low.

But, with the benefit of hindsight it would have been a lot easier had he said "electrical failure, request radar vectors to land" or something along those lines.

I think you're right though, English is not the entire problem - and I'm sure you'll appreciate that in an ATC environment, workload would be as much of a factor as any controllers lack of knowledge. Despite one A/C having an emergency, we still have to stop the others banging into each other!

planeenglish
11th Jun 2006, 16:56
Despite one A/C having an emergency, we still have to stop the others banging into each other!


Well said!!!:ok:

DOVES
11th Jun 2006, 19:41
And try to help those poor guys, who are struggling with their stress and an unusual and little known condition (seldom an unusual situation is exactly as per a check list title; more often it's a combination of them) to bring the heavy metal down as a whole.
Please
FLY SAFELY
DOVE

zkdli
11th Jun 2006, 19:44
CDB,
You have just shown exactly the problem here. The aircraft had a double inertial reference system failure. That is not an INS failure. It something very different and you made the same assuption that the atcos in the emergency made because they did not have the infromation available to find out the ramifications of a double inertial referenece system failure.:)

Few Cloudy
12th Jun 2006, 08:44
Hi Plane,

Just to be clear, I am no more of an expert than any other long time Captain
on this site. I think it is very good that airlines employ English teachers and that these teachers want to get it right.

These were the questions you put:

PE asks here: frequency change means that the ATC has changed or is it the same person as before?...
Usually it will be another controller on the new freq. This change can be due to a different controlling area or altitude/level, or just to have a more peaceful freq. to talk on.

I ask you would this not just be a procedural problem? ...
I would really have to hear the tapes here, though on the face of it, it appears that the controller didn't immediately get the point - not surprising in the middle of a lot of standard chat, when suddenly someone comes up with something unusual. Again, if the PAN call really were made, this should alert the controller that something non standard is coming.


Could an operational person help me understand if this is a problem in procedure and not linguistic performance (on either the part of the pilot or the ATC)?...
Again, without listening to the tapes, a bit difficult but a double transmission is not neccessarily affected by language. If you catch the tail end of a transmission, then it is easier to sort out if the language is good.


means that they haven’t got all the nice bits of nav kit …they are basically
point and shoot .....”.
Could you explain this to me? ..."point and shoot?"...
Not a standard phrase but he means that the navigation is back to basics and that "direct to..." clearances for instance cannot neccessarily be followed. Also, depending on aircraft type, an IRS failure can affect other systems (initially autopilot mode etc.) So it needs the controller to understand that they may not be able to follow certain directions, except for headings.

Hope this helps,

FC.

planeenglish
12th Jun 2006, 14:18
It has and I thank you. When the journalists get this they write that low proficiency was the problem when it isn't the entire case. I believe this is partly due to trying to sell an article by putting general panic in people and not understanding operations in aviation.

Albeit, the press has twisted a bit too much. It may wake some airlines up to put money into specialized English courses for their operational personnel at least. We'll see.

For my classroom though, I will use this info you have given me to make a realistic and effective lesson.

Thanks again,
PE

MMC
13th Jun 2006, 11:07
As some of you may, or may not be aware from March 2008 ALL flightcrew operating in International airspace & ALL ATC controllers handling International traffic will have to be assessed as to spoken & understood English and must reach ICAO level 4.

I am looking into this problem for my airline, the more I dig the bigger the problem.

Its going to be a big job - and I bet the airlines will try to delay the implementation.

If anyone wants details please pm me.

MungoP
13th Jun 2006, 11:27
I remember starting my aviation career 20 yrs ago with an airline based in Aberdeen... took about a month before I could cope with ATC instructions.

planeenglish
13th Jun 2006, 11:29
Lucky you. For most it takes MUCH longer...

Best,
PE

planeenglish
14th Jun 2006, 09:54
I have written a different thread regarding these new standards. I would appreciate any comments.
http://www.pprune.org/forums/showthread.php?t=230474

Thanks to all,

Regards,
PE