View Full Version : LOT 737 incident, June 2007: crew's poor English blamed

12th Jun 2008, 05:23
The AAIB has issued a report into an incident last June, in which a LOT 737-500, "meandered helplessly" (to quote the Daily Telegraph) after takeoff from LHR, due to communications problems between the aircraft and ATC.



12th Jun 2008, 08:51
crew's poor English blamed Unlikely in that The fundamental purpose of the AAIB is: ... It is not to apportion blame or liability


12th Jun 2008, 09:08
Indeed, NoD, merely 'observations' as per the norm. It would appear that a far simpler root problem lay behind this, possibly taking off with the IRS's in ALIGN or OFF?

EDIT to add praise for a neat bit of controlling by ATC!

12th Jun 2008, 09:54
Whilst there is no allocation of blame, the facts do not appear to reflect positively on the crew. As a 737 captain I am always particularly interested in incidents I can learn from. Hopefully I can subsequantly avoid doing something similar. The Adam Air 737 crew messing with the IRS and crashing, the TNT 737 crew trying to continue an autoland after deselecting the autopilot below 800 feet are good recent examples.

In this case a highly experienced crew (captain 15 years on type, co-pilot 6) managed to get into pretty serious difficulty doing something I can barely imagine. Taking off with the IRS not aligned and therefore no primary attitude or navigation displays is pretty amazing. That you can appear to have aligned the IRS, with most of the displays then disappearing on takeoff (if that is really what happened) is a sobering thought. In any case it underlines the rule about not moving the aircraft before the IRS are aligned, if it needed underlining.

The report is pretty fair in pointing out that the crew were under a fair amount of stress which may have exacerbated their limited English. But their level of English was a secondary problem. What is clear is that they were completely unable to navigate the aircraft on their own for various reasons. Without help from ATC it is unlikely they would have found the runway.

12th Jun 2008, 10:48

Good post... as you say, unlike the thread starter, there were numerous contributory factors, and poor english was not one of the primary ones...


12th Jun 2008, 11:06

It depends what your exact idea is of primary causes etc.

The primary cause may well have nothing to do with the standard of English in this incident - the primary cause was in fact more likely to be down to the non alignement of IRS (coupled with the fact that the crew did not ralise this).

What was a major factor in the resultant way the incident played out was the poor English - exacerbated no doubt by the stress the crew were experiencing.

In this respect, the poor English was a primary factor (and some would argue it was the main factor by a long way) in the way the incident snowballed.

I have listened to the actual R/T and watched the radar replays twice now - I can assure you that had communications been clearer, the incident would not have caused so much of a problem.

12th Jun 2008, 11:53
I have not seen in the report any reference to the enormous complication caused by compass acceleration/turning errors which would have made reading an accurate heading very difficult. A timely reminder, perhaps of the need for gentle handling when using the standby compass? As the report says, there is an over-reliance on the FMS/IRS in aviation and 'standby' skills are no doubt sadly lacking.

12th Jun 2008, 12:00
interestingly an easyjet 737 did exactly the same thing at Luton several years ago. Training Capt, SO under initial line training - fast align attempted at A1, forgot to select nav, only saw the lack of ND at 80kts, airborne into IMC.

Not a good situation. Flying on those rubbish Standby Inst is pretty difficult.

12th Jun 2008, 12:09

Your points are of course valid, but it depends "where / when / what aspects" you think this incident was "serious".

I will presume you are an ATCO... and to you the incident was "serious" because there was an aircraft wandering around the LTMA that either could not or would not follow headings. To an ATCO that is very serious...

As a pilot, this was somewhat less so... the aircraft had good endurance, and I am sure you guys would have kept things out if it's way, albeit with extensive disruption to other traffic. Apart from "how" they got into this scenario, nobody (crew included) seemed to work out how hard it is to fly a fast aircraft using a mickey mouse small compass, and located far from the (Sby) AI. It was the second ATCO who picked up on this I think and went for the timed turns? Good on him...

Language played a part no doubt, but how many of our "newer" pilots (and ATCOs?) are trained in timed turns / no compass procedures? I've done 12+ years in the airlines, and never flown either the simulator or the aircraft on a liquid compass :{ As the AAIB observed, having got into that situation, it would require exceptional crew co-ordination to fly accurately - they fact they flew altitudes and altitude changes well shows at least the priority was directed correctly... heading I'm afraid comes a distinct second.


12th Jun 2008, 12:11
BOAC, indeed. I remember how I hated compass turns because you better not look at the compass to determine the initial direction of the turn. If you fly 090° compass heading, 120° heading is on the left of the lubber line. You had to visualise a compass rose in your head. If you don't do that, you're bound to turn in the wrong direction and lose all situational awareness. You're lost before you know it...

12th Jun 2008, 12:34

Thats a fair point - I used to fly for the mil before becoming a civvy ATCO - one of the things I questioned as soon as I saw the incident for the first time, (and before we 'analysed' it), was why the ATCO did not use a "no compass, no gyro" procedure earlier, as soon as it was apparent that headings were not being flown- something we practiced from both sides of the microphonne extensively in the military.

I suppose as technology 'advances' we lose a lot of the skills we used to have, or we discard them as they are very unlikely to be needed and there are more pressing things that need to be practiced with the advent of new equipment/technology.

If the English spoken by the crew in this incident had been better, there is no doubt in my mind that the incident (from an ATC and an incident management point of view) would have been resolved much earlier and better.

The breakdown of communication was IMHO a major factor in so much that the inability of the crew to communicate, (and/or the inability of the ATCO to understand), the implications caused much more stress on the flight deck than there should have been thus reducing their mental capacity and therefore the fault diagnosis etc.

The fact the aircraft was not keeping to assigned altitudes (within the tolerances required for seperation purposes for ATCOs) was also a worry on a couple of occasions.

You are correct, as ATCOs we would keep other aircraft out of the way - but when you have departures that fly under holding areas it is difficult and often impossible to notice quickly if they are deviating from the SID route or heading - especially when the crew themselves are not aware and thus unable to warn you... it is extremely difficult in the LTMA to de-conflict flights without having a massive knock on effect - as you can imagine, the LOT may have been in conflict with a couple of flights, so they would be given vectors to keep them clear... however because of the confines of airspace, these aircraft themselves then become conflictors for another set of aircraft, and so on!

I think that in situations like these, it wold be far better for the ATCO to take control of navigation and introduce timed turns - there will still be plenty of scope within this procedure for the crew to try to diagnose the fault.

As an aside - there were a lot of other lessons from an ATC point of view to be learned - one of the ATCOs involved made a few assumptions that were not particularly smart - however the incident did turn out OK, and thanks to the way the UK system works, it has provided us with a good lesson learning experience.

12th Jun 2008, 12:57
Whilst there is no allocation of blame, the facts do not appear to reflect positively on the crew

Beautifully phrased and so politically correct and Sir Humphrey would surely have approved...:D

Tee Emm
12th Jun 2008, 13:07
Let's cut to the chase. The crew stuffed up big time and were incompetent...:ugh:

12th Jun 2008, 13:43
Well if you liked my turn of phrase you may (as Amazon says) also be interested in the following snippet from the AAIB's report:

There were two main sources of information regarding
the events on this flight: the recorded data and the reports
from the pilots. In some respects, the information from the
two sources was not consistent.

It is also clear that the incident reinforces the need for an improvement in levels of English. I saw an amazing programme on TV recently, where they went up to non european captains at Frankfurt airport and tried to talk to them in English. The response on camera, along the lines of 'sorry my English, she not very good' would be comic were it not obviously such a serious problem.

12th Jun 2008, 14:31
Yes, gents, you are right, it was a major c... up by the crew.

But I would like to put my twopence worth to the case.

I used to be a scientist and all the conferences we attended were held in English...
Or I would say a "I-English", which term I use to describe the "international, English-like language common to the scientific world".

I can tell you, the biggest trouble at any conference was when a native speaking British or American scientist was holding a speech.
Nobody could follow. They used UK-English, or US-English, but no I-English.

It was much easier to understand a Danish, Polish, German or whatever accent English,
than native speakers.

I assume similar trouble in the ATC-PIC communications...

But it was on a side note.

Another side note is, that the times of "non-English speaking, hard on electronic gizmo and hard on floating compass" pilots in LOT are over.

I can give you an example of my friend who has had his final interview by LOT today
and (hopefully) will take a right seat soon.

1. He is fluent in English, crazy on ATC simms, spending hours a day
talking ATC simm... (he originally wanted to be an ATC controller).
2. He is fluent in FMS, NAVS etc., he is a computer freak, he build
a full size B737 simulator together with a friend in his attic (no move of course) ;)
3. He used to build up his time flying An-2, all the time with shaky,
liquid compass, some times IMC when bringing sky jumpres to the altitude.

So this is the new generation, maybe no 15.000 hours, maybe no 9.000 on type,
but growing up in modern world, and still getting enough of his
basic flying skills in real world.

And on the bottom line:
the old generation LOT pilots may not speak fluent English,
but they certainly speak fluent Russian.... :}

12th Jun 2008, 14:34
Not playing down the importance of flight and crew having to be able to speak English but I was alwys taught in CRM sessions that no matter how good your english is, when it's not somebodies mother tongue that when encountering a stressfull situation the brain will always revert to the speakers mother tongue to be able to focus more on the actual problem. Maybe the captains english was good enough in normal day to day situations, this incident made it probably a lot harder for im to understand and reply to simple instructions

12th Jun 2008, 14:55
Their English didn't help, but the prominence given to it seems to me to be a product of the xenophobia of certain sections of the British media - an opportunity for the Torygraph to indulge in more Pole-bashing.

It does seem to me that the crew could be criticised for not declaring an emergency, but it doesn't take much English to say 'MAYDAY' so I don't think this was a language competence problem.

I also note that ATC on a couple of occasions said 'one eighty' or 'one hundred and eighty' rather than 'one eight zero', which may not have helped the crew's understanding.

12th Jun 2008, 17:17
On a lighter note, it has occurred before....


12th Jun 2008, 17:39
Approximately ten years ago, I witnessed the take-off of an Il-76 operating for Heavylift. Turning the radio on, I heared the tower instructing them to turn right imediately after take-off. The reply, in perfect English was: turn right, confirmed, but their turn left in the direction of the only cloud over continental Europe hiding a B-737 on the landing pattern.

This is not he first time that I heard a pilot confirming that he would follow the direction given by the ATC but turns in the opposite direction.

This is not necessarily a language problem.

My twopences worth.


12th Jun 2008, 17:50
From bulletin's page 21:

‘If the IRU data is Non Computed Data (NCD) as we assumed due to IRU being in ALIGN mode, EFIS will remove IRU related data but it will not display IRU related Flags on EADI or EHSI. With IRU data being NCD, EFIS will remove horizontal line, pitch lines, roll pointer and sky/ground shading from the EADI.

So if I understood this correctly, the crew taxied and took off with blank EADIs, as shown on page 14?!?!? :confused::ooh::eek:

If it was indeed so, then their lack of english communication skills and difficulties with flying on standby instruments were not their greatest problems on that day.

Training Capt, SO under initial line training - fast align attempted at A1, forgot to select nav, only saw the lack of ND at 80kts, airborne into IMC.

Too bad they were past V1 :E

12th Jun 2008, 19:29
My understanding from the report is that they fast aligned the IRS at the gate. The FO being used to entering E for east rather W for west (automation error due to LOT's route structure) put in a position two degrees too far to the east. Due to the lattitude being correct and the longitude relatively close, after probably showing an error message, it appeared to have accepted the data, e.g. no blank screens or warning flags.

At the holding point they realised that something looked wrong with the Nav display and tried to re-enter their position, but then made the situation worse by not reselecting Nav mode. When TOGA was pushed the screens then blanked. This was noticed too late.

The crew told another story about mobile phone interference etc. But as the AAIB notes the recorded data and the pilot's reports do not agree.

It reminds me of a story, which originally I did not fully understand, of a crew many years ago achieving something similar by re-entering the wrong position several times and then having to fly back from Egypt on radar vectors and raw data, after at least getting the attitude data back. Interesting to note that something similar has happened at Easy and probably others too. Hopefully we can all learn from this.

12th Jun 2008, 19:38
Hopefully we can all learn from this.

And what should we learn?

eastern wiseguy
12th Jun 2008, 19:44
Time to train ATCO's properly on "No compass No gyro"? .An approach which we do at BFS for our customers in green.

12th Jun 2008, 19:57
Unfortunately I have to mention an incident in Poland,
(no English knowledge involved) :}
where a CPT on a night IFR flight on ATR72 experiencing some
abnormalities and errors in HSI told the Copilot to "Reset it !",
resulting in total failure of systems and loss of spatial orientation.

They recovered and broke out of clouds using stand-by instruments,
came to straight and level, readjusted instruments and completed flight,
but in the process reached 2.6G almost disintegrating the AC.

Preliminary report here, unfortunately in Polish,
but visualisations available.


(click on: "Wizualizacja ścieżki..." and "Wizualizacja manewru..." to download)

This time no ATC support was available to help in recovery...

12th Jun 2008, 20:25
Ptkay you forgot to mention ERJ-145 out from GDN
See http://www.ulc.gov.pl/_download/bezpieczenstow_lotow/komunikaty/2007/samoloty_powyzej_5700_kg/komunikat_131-05.pdf

12th Jun 2008, 20:35
For a start hopefully some of us might learn a bit of humility. Maybe part of the problem is thinking after 15 years flying the same machine nothing can go wrong.

Maybe I am being a bit unfair lomapaseo, but your comment also sounds a bit a bit warm and fireside like, if you understand the CRM reference.

I now know of three very experienced captains this has happened to on the 737 in large well established airlines. What do you think we might learn?

I am pleased to see that others have started the ball rolling.

12th Jun 2008, 20:53
Ptkay you forgot to mention ERJ-145 out from GDN
See http://www.ulc.gov.pl/_download/bezp...kat_131-05.pdf

It has nothing to do with this case, a clear matter of ATC co...up.


12th Jun 2008, 21:04
a clear matter of ATC co...up

Due to poor english

12th Jun 2008, 21:20
Due to poor english

...the conclusions of Polish AAIB were:

- ATC selecting wrong method of separation, horizontal, instead of vertical
- ATC giving command to EMB170 to sink from FL270 to 2700ft, when EMB 145 was climbing to FL210
- ATC lack of effective actions to secure separation when recognizing conflict (not using word "immediately")

I don't see any relation to "poor english"...

Just poor performance and poor judgement of the ATC... :ouch:

13th Jun 2008, 07:40
A Polish airliner came within seconds of colliding with another plane near Heathrow because its pilots had such poor English that they could not understand basic instructions from air traffic controllers. The Lot Boeing 737, carrying 95 passengers and crew, wandered the skies for almost half an hour as the pilots struggled to identify their position. A controller had to instruct another aircraft to change direction to avoid a collision.

A document seen by The Times suggests that only 15 out of 800 Polish pilots flying internationally have passed the test for the required standard of English.

The two pilots in the Heathrow incident had to rely on directions after positioning instruments went blank because of a co-pilot’s error. They repeatedly failed to comply with instructions as they tried to return to Heathrow. On the final approach the Boeing appeared to be heading for the wrong runway, prompting a controller to order other aircraft to leave the area.

The incident, described in a report by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) (http://www.aaib.dft.gov.uk/sites/aaib/cms_resources/Boeing%20737-500,%20SP-LKA%2006-08.pdf), highlights the risks associated with having so many foreign pilots with only rudimentary English using British airports. English is the international language of aviation but many countries failed to comply with the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) deadline of March this year for ensuring that their pilots were proficient in the language.

Poland has applied to the ICAO for an exemption until March 2011, the last possible date for compliance, after which pilots without the required level could be banned from international airspace. In a letter to the ICAO obtained by The Times, the Polish government’s civil aviation office suggests that only 15 pilots out of 800 Poles flying international routes have passed the appropriate English test.

The letter, sent on March 4, nine months after the Heathrow incident, states: “We haven’t had any accident caused by insufficient English level as well as [sic] we have not received any information from air traffic control agencies that Polish pilots were not able to communicate correctly. Therefore, potential risk of accident occurrence due to lack of English language proficiency is very improbable.”

That claim is contradicted by the AAIB’s investigation, which said: “The crew of Lot 282 were not able to communicate adequately the nature and extent of their problem.” The report added: “The commander, who was making the radio calls, was not able to understand some of the instructions.”

The AAIB found that an initial error by the co-pilot had been “compounded by the difficulty of obtaining information from the pilots because of their limited command of English”.

The Department for Transport confirmed that it had kept the Polish authorities informed of the investigation.

David Learmount, safety editor of Flight International magazine, said that it was very worrying that the pilots had not understood British controllers. “It could have been even worse if they had been trying to understand a French controller speaking to them in English,” he said.

“Countries which did not previously have many international pilots are now flooding the world with flights piloted by people who can’t speak English properly. For many pilots, learning English is much more difficult than learning to fly.”

13th Jun 2008, 08:51
There was a pathetically written summary of the Heathrow incident on BBC Teletext yesterday, the day this came out. Not only did they, as ever, completely invent that there had been a "near miss" with another aircraft, which is pure fiction, but then stated that the aircraft returned to Heathrow by the FO using standby instruments, which if you read the report is stated to be the one thing that didn't happen.

Now then BBC, that's really poor English !

13th Jun 2008, 08:56
WHBM: "then stated that the aircraft returned to Heathrow by the FO using standby instruments, which if you read the report is stated to be the one thing that didn't happen."

I read the report. The aircraft returned to Heathrow. FO was PF. They were using standby instruments. What have I missed?

13th Jun 2008, 10:52

I have watched thie incident twice on radar replay whilst listening to the actual R/T.

The pilots were using standby instruments - unfortunately there were a few problems with this:

1. - They did not communicate the fact they were using standby instruments to the ATCO - either because of stress - you could hear the very high level of stress in their voices, or because they did not think to do so.

2. - ATCOs are generally unaware of the difficulties of flying on standby instruments - I used to fly in the mil, have practised loss of main instruments extensively in the course of that career. However something I have learned from this thread is that in some modern passenger airliners, the layout of the standby instruments leaves a lot to be desired - i.e. the difficulty of keeping a tight scan between the compass and the AI.
Is this a problem with just the B737, or is it the same for all modern aircraft? I don't know and it's not right to expect any ATCO to know the instrument layout of every aircraft they may control - that why pilots need to speak up in these situations.

As has been mentioned a few times, including by myself, in situatons like these, maybe the best option would be turns initiated by the ATCO, i.e. the 'no compass, no gyro' procedure.

The problem with the above statement is I think trying to get that idea across to this particular crew in this instance would have been very difficult - partly due to poor English, partly due to the lack of mental capacity they had at the time due stress, an partly because it seems that to most pilots who have not had much experience ouside modern airliners, the 'no compass, no gyro' procedure is unknown to them.

The BBC were not the only ones who made mistakes in their report - the Telegraph report linked in the first post of this thread is littered with errors as well - a supposedly 'good quality' newspaper!

13th Jun 2008, 11:27
Don`t want to detract from the seriousness but hey these are not the first Polish pilots flying around London with limited english skills.....

1940? :}

13th Jun 2008, 11:46
Anotherthing - I think its the same problem on both sides. Pilots theoretically should be able to fly using standby instruments, but how many of them actually ever do that? Same for ATCOs - at my place "non gyro" is a standard part of simulator training for prospective approach radar controllers, but how many of them actually ever have the opportunity to use it? And moreover, during training you know it will be non-gyro, and the "pilot" reports he has no instruments. This was not the case here, and I don't think many controllers would understand what flying on standby instruments mean.

And an interesting note - maybe the stress was caused by the fact they faced an unusual situation, but which in fact they thought should be easy to handle, just to find out otherwise. Engine fires, bird strikes etc. - all much gravier, but everyone practice them, here a/c was flyable, and they found they can't handle it.

13th Jun 2008, 12:22
On a lighter note, it has occurred before....


Thank you for reminding about those "poor English" pilots meandering around London... :ok:

(BTW: ...they were not even invited to the Victory Parade after the war, not to disturb Uncle Jo) :( :mad:

13th Jun 2008, 12:26
Don`t want to detract from the seriousness but hey these are not the first Polish pilots flying around London with limited english skills.....

1940? :}

See the post above...


India Four Two
13th Jun 2008, 15:05
lomapaseo said:

And what should we learn?

After reading the report, three things seem glaringly obvious:

1. With an instrument failure of this seriousness, if you are in VMC, don't climb into the clouds.

2. There should have been a more informed handoff to the approach controller

3. "Somebody" should have been at the stand when they returned in order to pull the CVR breaker.

13th Jun 2008, 15:26
I can give you an example of my friend who has had his final interview by LOT today
and (hopefully) will take a right seat soon.

Just for the record.
My friend was successful yesterday at his interview by LOT and starts the job in August, in the right seat of EBR170.

And yes, he passed the ICAO Language Proficiency test on Level 5 !!!

:ok: :D :D :D

13th Jun 2008, 22:51
Good to hear that your friend passed his test, but which test was it?

There are a good number flying around..

Was it as rigourous as the ELPAC for ATCOs?

14th Jun 2008, 10:11
I don't know exactly, but he passed the LOT internal theory test with 96%,
and LOT internal English language test with 90%.

At the same time he could (should) run the official ICAO test for pilots
in language proficiency. It was organized by ULC (Polish CAA), and he passes
on Level 5, so he will have to refresh the test in 6 years.

Polish CAA (ULC) is fully certified by EASA according to JAR and many times successfully audited.

On the side note: no pilot entering a job by LOT will be accepted without
passing the ICAO Level 4 test. Having a big competition of applicants
they prefer those who passed Level 5.

For me it is tragic, how, based on an objective AAIB report, meant to improve
overall aviation safety, a bunch of xenophobic, stupid journalists picks up
a single line from the text and start bushing LOT and whole Polish aviation
all around the world.

They maybe had problems to follow the standby instruments, but in my opinion NEVER
had problems with understanding the ATC.

And by the way: what kind of standard ICAO communication lines is:
"What do you think is your heading ??"
AFAIK it should be "XXX give your altitude and heading"
(please any ATC expert correct me.)
You can use "What do you think you are doing??" in the pub when somebody spills a beer,
but not as the ATC controller. :}

The unfair and stupid text from The Telegraph is circulating around all magazines
and web pages, full of crap like "Seconds from collision", "Near Disaster avoided".

Even such renown titles like The Times and Der Spiegel repeat this nonsense,
without even trying to go to the source and find out the truth.

It makes me really sick. :yuk:

16th Jun 2008, 09:05

I have listened to the tapes and watched the Radar replays - you obviously have not otherwise you would not state but in my opinion NEVER had problems with understanding the ATC.

The communications were very confused throughout. You also state/ask

And by the way: what kind of standard ICAO communication lines is:
"What do you think is your heading ??"
AFAIK it should be "XXX give your altitude and heading"

Unfortunately there is only a finite amount of phraseology which is there to cover most circumstances - however it is not exhaustive.

Reverting to plain English is the most sensible thing to do, especially in an emergency situation, instead of trying to shoe horn an unusual situation into standard phraseology that has not been designed to cover it!

If there is ever a circumstance that is not covered by ICAO phraseology, or the crew/ATC just do not seem to understand; then talking plain, non technical English is an extremely wise idea.

The Crew were under a lot of pressure, but - and this may come as news to you - the ATCO was also under pressure and a little stressed - he may not have used the best phrasing when trying to use plain English, but at least he tried... if you listen to the R/T (merely reading a transcript does not give you any idea of how it actually was) then you will know that understanding ATC and passing a coherent message when asked was very much a problem the crew had.

The newspapers may well have sensationalised some aspects of this incident but the fact is, for whatever reason, the crew did not communicate effectively - this could be down to a number of factors, stress and confusion are probably the main ones.

It's all very well sitting a test in benign conditions - it's a lot different trying to reach the required level when you have a lot of other things going on - it is perfectly understandable that a non native English speakng person will start to stumble over a foreign language.

Although I totally disagree with you regarding the fact you believe there was no communication problem (the AAIB is not xenophobic, it is a very well respected organisation), and also the fact that you think everything can be communicated using standard ICAO phraseology, I will say that there were certain things that the ATCO said tha could have been phrased better or properly - for example using 'Three hundred' instead of 'three zero zero degrees' then talking about a heading.

16th Jun 2008, 13:07
I have listened to the tapes and watched the Radar replays - you obviously have not

Thank you for a clear and respectful comment from a professional.
That's what PPRuNe is for. :D

I never had any doubt that AAIB report is NOT xenophobic.
The problem was not the report itself, but "selective reading"
by some journalists jumping to predefined conclusions.

I fully agree with your comments on language capacities in test or under stress.
ICAO Level 4 is just a test result, and life is life...

With younger generation moving gradually in, growing up in almost entirely English speaking web virtual environments,
let's hope the problems will gradually disappear.

16th Jun 2008, 13:19
Unfortunately there is only a finite amount of phraseology which is there to cover most circumstances - however it is not exhaustive.

...nevertheless, using this standard, professional phraseology certainly contributes better to calm down the involved
in a stress situation instead of blunt and patronising "What do you think you are doing?"...

But this is of course tongue in chick. :}

On the bottom line: it was certainly the chain of errors on the crew side,
that initiated and allowed the situation to escalate,
but "poor English" was maybe not the least, but certainly not the most critical one...


17th Jun 2008, 20:30
He/she didn't say "What do you think you are doing?" though. Which would have been over brusque...

I understand the question to mean "don't tell me what heading you should be flying, or what you estimate to be your heading corrected for the system failure - tell me what the erroneous reading is". After all, knowing how much difference there was between the actual and their picture of the world would be useful information - if the answer had been actual +/- 180, that's almost a diagnosis of the problem in itself. When you are debugging something, what you need to know is *how* it breaks, not just that it's broken, and this goes for any problem-solving.

But then, I'm a native English speaker, and it does sound quite a lot like "What do you THINK you're DOING?"

17th Jun 2008, 23:12
And by the way: what kind of standard ICAO communication lines is:
"What do you think is your heading ??"
AFAIK it should be "XXX give your altitude and heading"
(please any ATC expert correct me.)Whilst the latter might be "correct", the former is the question the ATCO was asking ;)

As a native English Speaker I might perceive some "sarcasm" in the first phrase. However, I doubt the LOT crew did. More importantly, it portrayed to the crew that the heading the crew thought they were flying, and the heading ATC seemed to see they were flying, were different :ooh: Which showed we were getting to the nub of the problem... NB the second ATCO also picked up on this when he started the timed turns...

Just in case anyone is unaware (?), at jet type speeds, and flying headings on a liquid compass, it will require straight and level flight for 30+ seconds (?) before you could accurately reply to a request like the second one for an actual "heading".


Swedish Steve
18th Jun 2008, 10:11
And what should we learn?

I am surprised that there is no mention of the dangers of fast aligns and manually entering PPOS.
Modern IRUs on short haul aircraft do not need realigning after every flight. They will happily go all day on a single align. So why do it when it can introduce errors?
Also why enter stand position? Why not use the general EGLL posn which is stored in the FMC database?

I think all short haul pilots should think about this. Why not check the residual groundspeed after engines off. If less than 10kts leave the IRUs alone.

18th Jun 2008, 10:22
Because it is the standard operating procedure and common sense and airmanship will never again be allowed to interfere with them!!

18th Jun 2008, 12:31
...But this is of course tongue in chick. :}

:D Well that's made my day, and I can't even tell if it's a typo, non-native english, or intentional humour - excellent. [wishing tongue was in chick...]

As a further illustration of communication problems, further up this thread we have:

Originally Posted by anotherthing
[...] disagree with you regarding the fact you believe there was no communication problem (the AAIB is not xenophobic, it is [...]

replying to ptKay who in fact stated that the AAIB was objective and called the journalists xenophobic:

Originally Posted by ptKay
based on an objective AAIB report, meant to improve
overall aviation safety, a bunch of xenophobic, stupid journalists

So, even with the luxury of time to read and respond in writing (and without RT interference, and the minor issues of flying with inoperative instruments or controlling an aircraft that is not following instructions etc.) we are still getting it wrong. On a thread about poor english !

[now, shall I bother to preview or not...]

18th Jun 2008, 14:58
Well that's made my day, and I can't even tell if it's a typo, non-native english, or intentional humour - excellent.

...part of everything you mentioned above:
Of course, I am non-native English,
of course it was a typo, (which a spell check will not highlight for obvious reasons)
and of course, I left it there intentionally, after I noticed, what have I done,
to see the reaction of the fellow PPRuNers...


Congratulations, you were the first one to notice. :ok:

19th Jun 2008, 23:09
Spent an hour reading the report, the AAIB were erring on the side of diplomacy here. Lets face facts, there were numerous errors, and numerous times the crew could have picked up on these but failed to do so. Coupled with the fact their english was woefully substandard and you have what may have been something more serious.

As for their raw data skills this is an area we could all well be criticized in.

Trying to blame Mobile phones though was a bit rich.

stator vane
22nd Jun 2008, 07:36
how it might have worked if there had been a native Polish speaking ATC that could have been called over to that desk?

not really an absurd possibility--

for various gov's, airlines, etc to arrange that at least at the major airports, and at the busiest times, to have a few ATC floaters to step in for the major languages that use the airports.

22nd Jun 2008, 08:20
chinese, russian, american, english, german, french, koren, japanese, swedish, polish, indian, dutch, etc....

22nd Jun 2008, 08:44
And then there's English.

Strine, Yank, Yaapie, Indian, West Indian and don't let's go near the various British English variations.;)

(Sorry for the overlap zkdli :\)