Language policy on the flight deck (from the The Professional Pilots Rumour Network)

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Sun Jun 17 15:24:38 UTC 2007

*Language Issues*
 Language issues

There are now very many mixed nationality crews flying in Europe. Although I
am a native English speaker, I virtually never fly with another. Along with
many other airlines, mine has a policy of English on the flight deck and all
communications in English. However, when we fly in France or Spain we
sometimes use "French" or "Spanish" callsigns, being contracted by French or
Spanish operators. Under these circumstances it is virtually impossible to
consistently receive radio calls in English. At a guess 25% of calls are
received in the native language. This often happens when the radio channels
are pretty close to being 100% utilised, thus putting an extra stress on an
already overloaded system.

It is quite understandable that controllers get into habits of what language
to use to what callsigns. And even though I can understand much aviation
French or Spanish, calls are missed, and much repeating is still necessary.
(Particularly with the eccentric nature of French counting, which I still
have difficulty with when delivered at high speed…)  I also note that we are
by no means the only crews getting this problem. Cannot (say) there be a
language preference marker be placed on the radar screen (or wherever
appropriate for the controllers).

Anyone else got any thoughts on this, but just for now, please leave aside
the issue of multiple language use in the first place, that is often
discussed, and nothing is likely to change. This is more a matter of how to
ensure being called in your preferred language, from the first call and then
consistently, without wasting time on repeats and misunderstandings. This
should not be controversial, and surely is in everyone's interest.

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