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Spanish ATC

Old 23rd May 2007, 00:25
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Spent this afternoon with one of Spains chief ATC bods (25 yrs in the job all over spain) and an instructor and mentioned I had been reading this thread last night. He said he wasnt surprised and hoped I would put his points of view accross:

1, Increase in incident reports at BCN has been 3x - 5x the normal over the last 3 mths
2, Madrids taxiways are airport design and have nothing to do with ATC
3, Spanish language - Why not to other Spanish speakers. In his words "If it increases clarity thats got to be good for dafety"

Now the interesting part:

In this gentlemans opinion Aena made a big mistake 10 years ago by deciding to invest in keeping the ATCOs it had rather than getting new blood in. This has led to a situation where older and more experienced ATCOs have been kept in the job whilst traffic has increased at exactly the time that reaction times are slower for an aging workforce. Aena is now taking on a lot of new controllers but who wants the job when the older buys are family men looking to work the "comfortable shifts"? As such new ATCOs are thrust into the deap end at the larger airports and this is causing the experiencelevel to drop where it is most necessary. Quality candidates are shying away from the job as although paying well by Spanish standards they know they will have the crappy shift patterns and be in a company that has previously showed it wants to wring as many years as possible from its ATCOs....

Personally I can see where he is coming from as a lot of Spain works on the "years in" system where the more senior you are the greater choice in shifts / location and positions you have. Why would an experienced guy who came to Madrid or BCN back in his twenties not take the opportunity to move back to his home town / region where living costs are a third of these two cities?

Im actually on the maint side of things so I cant elaborate further but it did prove interesting to hear the other side of the coin...
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Old 23rd May 2007, 01:50
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Again no idea what you are talking about. You guys read through all the nonsense you have written. Things can get better, as well as in FRA, LHR, LGW, CDG, GVA, DUB and so on. Only one major accident in Spain in the last 10 years.No blame on the ATC, only weather and (it is not really important but it was a uk registered aircraft)

"Beware of false knowledge, it is more dangerous than ignorance, Bernard Shaw"
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Old 23rd May 2007, 04:51
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Well, most british people i know (and believe me, i know a lot), dont realize how small their country is. No hard feelings, i like english and the brits, but let me make my point:

The same international conventions and laws that make english the aeronautical language give us, the spaniards, the right (and obligation in some cases) to use our own language with spanish-speaking pilots if they call in in spanish (if they call in english we always answer in english). The matter is that we accept the rules, and i am tired of reading again and again that some of you just dont.

Maybe we, the international community, should revise the whole thing, but... would you accept, in that case, another language to be the new aeronautical one?

Best regards.
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Old 23rd May 2007, 06:56
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Of course comparing with flying over scandinavia, germany, italy, holland etc has no influence on this matter cus they dont have that right, evrything has to be in english and trust me most of those nationalities would love to, but theyre not approved, so in this matter we should think in why before opening our peaks
They have exactly the same right. Let's take, for example, Finland where Finnish and English are the accepted languages in the world of aviation: when flying from/to EFHK the pilots and the controllers speak always English, of course there are sometimes some PPL Cessna-pilots speaking Finnish (but I think the reason is that they don't have an English R/T-rating). I've never heard a controller or a pilot speaking Finnish (except some private pilots) when there's a non-Finnish pilot on the same frequency. Finnish is used at smaller airports but when a non-Finnish a/c tunes the same frequency, a smooth change to English is performed.
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Old 23rd May 2007, 06:58
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Sure its your "Right" to speak your national language, but does that "Right" make it safe and wise to do so. It most certainly does not!
If "everyone" speaks and is able to listen in the same language, then safety is improved, this is not debateable. The amount of incidents that are caused worldwide, by people speaking in their national to one aircraft, and English others is well documented, Paris CDG in particular.

Bluefalcon wrote
Someone porsted that in LEAL the ATC had intentions in giving priority to an iberia,,Why would there be priority to an Iberia if it aint anymore a public company( as AENA is), did you maybe stop to think the iberia had a slot and maybe the ATC wanted to help out.
Don't make me laugh too much, that was funny. I filed Air Safety Reports numerous time about priority vectors and approaches for Iberia/Spanish Airlines. The best happened once into AGP, vectored LH downwind for 32. Was on a rather wide vector, asked to slow minimum clean. I then saw a IB 757 overtake us on the inside at 300+ knots. I asked if he had an emergency, the reply was unclear. What made it really funny was we had 2 x gents from LATCC (London Air Traffic Control Centre) on an educational flight. They were absolutely astounded at what had happened and commented they would be on a disciplinary hearing for doing that!! Luckily for me i speak reasonable Spanish and understood what the controller said to the IB 757!!
Its well known that IB and other Spanish Airlines give AENA employees flightdeck priveledges, perhaps no surprise that favouritism is rampant!

I love Spain and most things Spanish, but the favouritism displayed by some ATCO's is very unprofessional!

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Old 23rd May 2007, 08:17
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to use our own language with spanish-speaking pilots if they call in in spanish (if they call in english we always answer in english).
So, there is two types of pilots around:
1. those who believe flying in a multi-language environment is dangerous
2. those who believe flying in a multi-language environment is not dangerous
Why is that? I lived under the impression that safety is an absolute measure and there is no compromise?
when flying from/to EFHK the pilots and the controllers speak always English
In most if not all European countries north of the Alps English is the mandatory language for IFR flights, while local languages are permitted for VFR flights.
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Old 23rd May 2007, 08:30
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<<They were absolutely astounded at what had happened and commented they would be on a disciplinary hearing for doing that!! >>
UK ATCOs are impartial without a doubt but during my years in London ATC, during my spells as a Superviso, I fielded a good number of phone calls from pilots whingeing and moaning that "You let British Midland in first", or "Why did BA get take-off before us".... always from UK pilots and never from their foreign counterparts. I never heard anything about "disciplinary hearings" and am certain that they do not exist. Many, many times, aircraft are apparently given priority, both on the ground and in the air, to achieve the maximum landing rate. Day after day aircraft will be brought off the holding patterns apparently "out of turn" for this reason. Unfortunately some people working up front in their own little world can't take that on board.... but nobody in ATC gets disclipined.
Old 23rd May 2007, 08:57
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Cannot find a previous post but a few years back in MAD with BA in a cronky old 737-200 we were denied start for a Maastricht imposed slot. Luckily the ground eng was listening and spoke Spanish and it transpired that SATCO MAD was allowing immediate starts for Spanish traffic but imposing his/her own 'airfield' 10 min separation for non-Spanish which gave us a 2 hour delay. I was the only BA a/c out of 5 with working HF and it transpired that the BA ATC manager was actually IN Maastricht at that very time and in no time at all it got sorted and the SATCO 'spoken to' by M.

You can add to the pot the Malaga 'wind calm, 14 in use' event which lasts until the Spanish 'rush' from the Balearics appears when you all troop round for 32 (and vice-versa). Another was runway 18 in MAD, 'take up the hold number 5 for the approach' to find after much Spanish chat on frequency and 20 minutes holding I was number 9.

I have a sneaking admiration for the way other countries do it, but as we ALWAYS play fair in the UK it hurts
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Old 23rd May 2007, 09:27
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Totally off sync with what this thread is mainly about, but it seems to have partly devolved into a discussion on "national priorities". I totally agree with "Heathrow Director". In my nearly 40 years as a controller working in Aus, Dubai and now Hong Kong, I have never seen any favouritisms handed out to any airline/national group. As HD above says, there are circumstances where we have to fiddle to make things work. Just two nights ago, at nearly midnight, I taxyied a Cathay 747 past at least 10 other departing taxying aircraft to the 07R holding point because of a slot time issue over the Bay of Bengal for god's sake (nearly 3 flying hours away). Did the South African that was passed whinge, or the Alitalia, Air France, Swiss? No. Can't imagine any of the Cathay guys that were overtaken bleating. If there is one thing that get's me going with airline pilots, and that is the issue of "I was diddled". I often get Cathay guys saying to me "In Singapore...blah blah, Singapore Airlines always No 1...." etc. Well please explain to me, when you have a continuous line of arrivals that may stretch for the next 5 hours, and will consist of predominately local airlines, how the ATC system can start to do favours? It is my experience that we just try to proccess the inbounds to a landing that will be as fair as possible to most users, and will cause the least wear and tear on the ATC system. If HD has implied that UK pilots were the main culprits in the UK for whingeing, then it was the old Ansett/TAA crowd in Australia many years ago that were the same for me. Now I wait for the incomings. What is that old saying "Hell hath no fury like a pilot scorned!"
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Old 23rd May 2007, 09:40
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OK, Spain can be a bit chaotic sometimes, but Spanish ATC do put in the effort and I think they generally do a good job!! English is used more and more (also among Spanish airlines) and the situational awareness is greatly increased.

For me personally, it's especially Italy and France that are most dangerous. I love Italy (great food, lovely people) but ATC-wise they just don't seem to give a damn! Outright scary what I've seen in LIN, CIA, FCO, NAP etc.
MXP seems to be the only exception where things are fairly well organized.

And then there's French ATC. They seem to have no clue who flies in their airspace ("errr, station calling") and make up for the lack of situational awareness by introducing bureaucratic procedures by forcing you to fly with 220 kts around Paris or being at minimum approach speed 25 miles out, wasting hundreds of kilos of fuel. Furthermore, if you lose Comm (because you're trying to block out all the mindless "errrrrrrr" French ATC chatter) they won't hesitate for one second to send up a few Mirages armed with heat seeking missiles.
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Old 23rd May 2007, 11:17
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ATC Watcher.....thanks for the proff reply.

This thread is going slightly off topic. Lets face the facts here. Lots of contributers have had multiple incidents in spain with ATC. We can compare it to UK, China or Mongolia. It doesn't matter. There are problems with spanish ATC. What are the problems?

Well IMHO using their native tongue is not CAUSING this problems. It makes the problems worse by confusing some of the parties involved after a problem occurs, but i dont think it is the root cause.

Let me call the pot black and run for cover

Some of the cause of my frustrations is either lack of intersest of bad communication within ATC. eg when you get cleared for an arrival and told which app/rwy to expect by control. Then getting handed over at FL150 and told there is a non-precision on the other end in use!! Do they realise how much problems this causes us?? Yeah Yeah, dont give me all this gab about just taking up the hold till its set up. Everyother ATC in northern eulope from east to west (poland to ireland) is able to co-ordinate this. But the spanish and the italians cant.

Next of all, I have seen to many "loss of situational awareness" by tower controllers in my short time as a pilot (since the 90's). On occasions (much much more than one) i have had to tell atc that i could not do the approach i was cleared to do because a naviagtion aid was not working. There was no understanding from the controller that the notamed inop nav aids render the app unusable. I have had a loss of separaton on a number of occasions caused by bad atc controlling. (Sounds like an off the cuff me its not. To give you any detail would immediatly reveal my identity to my management team as they would all be very aware of one particular incident. Sure, the blame was placed directly on atc, but what has changed...thats the problem.)

I cant believe there are people saying if you think there is a problem in spain then you have no experience. Thats rubbish. Do you want us all to measure ourselves against somalian ATC? Fools. Measure ourselves agains British or German ATC. Aim high. Im afraid that spanaish (and italian) atc is not up to THAT standard and it is causing me, and a lot of other pilots, problems. REAL PROBLEMS.
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Old 23rd May 2007, 12:39
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Well, im not going to answer to the insulting posts (afortunately, not all of you, thank you), but just make a couple of comments that really annoyed me:

1.- One has said that we give priority to spanish pilots because their companies give us special conditions in the flightdeck. This is absolutely FALSE. Its a fact that spanish companies give us the worst treatment of all. We have much better conditions with british, dutch or german companies. I have never seen any of my colleagues (of course i have never done it either) delay a foreign aircraft to give priority to a national one just because he is national. Thinking that is really knowing NOTHING about air traffic control. But its ok, because thats not the pilots work, although some pilots think they are experts on the matter and we are a bunch of amateurs with headphones.

2.- Spanish controllers ARE controllers. Some of our procedures are somehow chaotic and maybe we are taught in a more creative way of controlling, because most of the time we dont have much choice. Fly, in instance, to LPA on a busy morning, and you will see how we are giving vectors from east, west, north and south that aparently lead you nowhere but, surprise! you end up exactly 5 miles behind the preceding (not always a spanish one ) and 5 miles ahead of the one behind. The difference ive seen with the british ATC system is that the procedures up there are made for high density traffic, and ours are still not (bureaucracy is still incredibly slow in Spain), so we have to deal with the same amount of traffic but with a lot more pressure, since we have to "create" the secuence from 0. A british controller would do the same if he worked here, and we would do like the british if we worked there. Its not a matter of high or low knowledge standards.

3.- Im fed up with the "its a matter of time to have a major accident down there". I have been reading that nonsense since a long long time ago... and im still waiting. Maybe we are not that bad?
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Old 23rd May 2007, 13:17
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flying over scandinavia (......) and trust me most of those nationalities would love to...
Well not really. Norwegian R/T does not exist any more, and I can count the times I have given control instructions in Norwegian on the fingers of my left hand. (All to PPL students struggling with the R/T)

Sweden used swedish a lot in the past, but it's use is less prominent today, and pretty much just for PPLs.

I see that some here argue that the UK is a small country, and should not be allowed to set the main aeronautical language.

Maybe we, the international community, should revise the whole thing, but... would you accept, in that case, another language to be the new aeronautical one?
This has nothing to do with accepting this and that. The fact is that in a great deal of countries around the world, English is the second language people learn after the native one. It's about being a bit pragmatic.

The Swedes and the Finns have the right to use national R/T, but because they don't have the pig headed misguided national pride thing going (Any more), they have recognized the safety gains provided with one language R/T. (English)

'My country's language is the best, because I come from a great nation, and anyone that don't like to use my language can just s** off. ' ( )

Now, that could be a brit speaking, but you get the drift.

Is that constructive? Because all the arguments I have seen here for the use of French, Spanish, Italian, Swedish, Russian..... R/T pretty much boils down to that IMHO.
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Old 23rd May 2007, 13:24
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I recall requesting taxi in MAD, having been pushed to beside a link taxiway. Despite repeated calls on ground, no reply was forthcoming as the controller elected to allow an Iberia a few stands along to start his push. Once he had finished his push, he was facing us with nowhere to go but out the link we (thought) we were blocking. By now we had been ready to taxi for at least 5mins and had made repeated calls to Ground, all of which were ignored. So it was with shock we heard the IB cleared to taxi ahead of us. Advising ATC that there was no room for him (which there wasn't) also went ignored. No problem for our hero in red and yellow though, him simply ignored the taxi line, squeezed out past us with his wingtip very uncomfortably close to our flight deck, taking out some taxiway edge lights with his main gear as his went. We were then finally given taxi.
No favouritism? Professional standards? Yeah right
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Old 23rd May 2007, 13:29
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I work as atc in LEAL (just TWR, not APP) and Im getting amazed of the lack of respect and knowledge many of you are showing about our job.
As others have pointed out, in Spain we NEVER give priority to any traffic except in cases of emergencies, slots or when applying minimum avarage delay (letting a fast aircraft go before a slow one will always benefit the general traffic flow). I must make clear that since long ago we do not receive any privileges from Iberia or other national(?) airways.
Apart from that, how about looking things from other perspective? Have you ever wondered how some pilots make our (your) work easier than others? Lets see:

Is it normal to step in the local freq (yes the one we use when adjusting incoming and departing traffics on a single runway airport) to call out your callsing, aircraft type, stand, destination, atis info copied and requesting your atc clearance within 45 minutes or more in advance of your EOBT? do you know how valuable can the freq ocupation time be in many situations? do you all check there is a ground freq for that purposes? are you all aware we usally do not have your FPL at hand (and thus your ATC clearance) until 30 min before your EOBT?

Are you really aware we usually have a great view of the apron from our towers? Why then say you are ready for start and/or push back if we clearly see all your bay doors open or a bunch of handling vehicles just behind your shiny B737. Believe me, it happens more than you would imagine.

Talking about language and oral comprehension. What part of when ready for departure call.... isnt clear enough? The thing is that most pilots step in the freq invariably without being ready therefore requiring for more more useless transmissions.

And this should make just enough for a start, I could post a real long list of similar complaints (Ive filled last month two air miss reports, both of them pointed the fault on foreing crews). The thing is I believe we both (pilots and atcos) work together to make flying safetier, faster and easier and therefore we all should do our best to reduce the workload on the other part.

Dont think however we are not on are way to improve our part. Im personally encouraging the use of english when situational awareness is required, and I know my mates are doing so more and more each time. Weve finally (after years of constant requests) got a CFMU terminal to make flow arrangements (namely REAs) much more fast. Weve got a much more efficient LoA with the airport operations office improving taxi to stand and pushback operations. We are constantly requesting essential works to be made in the navigation side of the airport (new speedways, bigger holding bays, ILS for rwy28...). We all know there is a lot more to do, but Im sure we are more in it than many of the ones who just complain without having a clue of anything but their butts.

By the way, when flying anywhere I always ask to visit the frontdeck, and if posible see the aproach and landing. I like to listen and talk to pilots to see how their work goes and what they think about ours. I wonder how many of you have visited one of those atc facilities youre so easily talking about. Needless to say you will anytime receive a warm welcome at LEAL.

See you.
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Old 23rd May 2007, 17:11
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spanish controllers have the highest wages in the world.
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Old 23rd May 2007, 17:40
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Just for your information they did tell me at school that more languages would be heard on the radio. However there is a limit to how many languages one can speak. And currently I do speak four different languages (English, Dutch, German and French) so I think I have done well to adapt myself to the rest of the world.
As I also said in my earlier post, English is not my native language. But I still speak it good enough to assure a safe operation whilst carrying out my duties as a pilot.

And that this situation has been around from the beginning of aviation is irrelevant. By talking Spanish you reduce the situational awareness of all other non-spanish speakers.

And by the way it is not bashing. You are telling me that I should have known that there are more languages spoken on the airwaves. Point taken, but it would be nice to see a bit more proficiency in English from the Spanish controllers side. And for that matter French, Greek and Italian.


Yep, do agree with you. However other ATC units outside Europe might be bad. But there is one saving grace. THEY SPEAK ENGLISH. So we can build our own mental picture whats going on.
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Old 23rd May 2007, 19:01
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At MAN there is a [D]ATIS broadcast "requesting" pilots NOT to call for ATC Clearance more than 10 mins before EOBT
Are you really aware we usually have a great view of the apron from our towers? Why then say you are ready for start and/or push back if we clearly see all your bay doors open or a bunch of handling vehicles just behind your shiny B737. Believe me, it happens more than you would imagine.
Happens ALL the time, live with it.
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Old 23rd May 2007, 19:39
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Thumbs up BCN

Like everyone else on here I have seen some strange goings on in Spain.

But I have to commend the controller at Barca, who after I twice had my request for clearance back to Edinburgh stamped on by a Binter Canarias flight. Told him to shut up and then apologised to me before giving the clearance.

They are not all bad.
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Old 23rd May 2007, 19:44
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As an en-route ATCO from LECB let me give you my point of view on some of the issues addressed in this thread.
I am aware that there are things to improve over here, and I am definitely not satisfied with a quality of service that is described as only marginally better than that of third-world countries. We must do better and while I am sure that a portion of the pilots will tend to rate their own country's ATC as the best, the fact that I hear no complaints about, say, Scandinavians countries make me believe I have to give some credibility to these complaints.
I believe much of the problem has to do with our culture, which favours individualism and creativity rather than strict procedure adherence. That doesn't mean that rules are not followed. Instead, it means that there are a great number of things that are left to the decision of the individual controller, and while it is only natural that there may exist many solutions to a problem some are provably worse (intentional -v-).
It takes time and effort for this culture to evolve. Let me tell you, though, about a couple of things that make me believe such change is indeed happening:
- Enforcing of the CFMU approved profile. This came to be in LECB just two weeks ago. Even though we have some trouble implementing it since our flight strips only show the approved level for the initial climb and we have to do too much button clicking to verify the profile when it's not a straight climb to cruise level, I believe a high proportion of my colleagues is actually following this directive even though some believed its better to ask the RFL always at first transmission (hint: its not, and please make sure to file a CHG if you do not believe the profile is appropriate, or be sure to refuel enough for that very long segment at FL300)
- Evaluation of competence in English: This comes because of a Eurocontrol directive, but it has kick-started our management into a preemptive testing of our workforce so as to prepare for eventual additional training if needs be. The results are yet to come out, but the fact that we are giving in without too much hassle into this evaluation opens up the door for more of this stuff, which is simply tantamount to a quality assurance process.
With respect to the ever present issue of RT language, let me offer a word of praise to Spanish pilots on this issue. Although admittedly I am quite new on this business, Ive only spoken English on the frequency whenever a foreign pilot was around (almost always). My trick is to call the Spanish callsigns in Spanish to get their attention, and proceed to give the clearance in English. In all this time only once has a pilot complained that I should talk Spanish to him. Many pilots will readback in Spanish, though, but I believe this technique is enough to improve situational awareness for you language impaired people .
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