ENGLISH IS THE OFFICIAL LANGUAGE OF AVIATION WORLDWIDE-EXCEPT IN FRENCH SPEAKING QUEBEC AND FRANCE-NATIONALISTIC ARROGANCE ALMOST MARKED UNE CATASTROPHE FOR AN AIR FRANCE FLIGHT
A Boeing 777 was close to landing at Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris when suddenly the crew received multiple warnings from the automation that something was awry. It appears that the aircraft which was operating on the automatic pilot veered off of the ILS (Instrument landing System) for Runway 26 Left and the crew was confused both about the many warnings it received but also what to do about it.
The warnings can be heard in the background as someone with a cooler head, hopefully the Captain, communicated in French with Air Traffic Control and another shouted “Stop, Stop, Stop!”
The aircraft commenced a missed approach, climbed and entered the hold waiting further instructions and so they could sort out the problem.
Here’s my take. First since English is the official language of aviation, had the crew communicated in English, the crews of other 777 aircraft or other Boeing aircraft similarly equipped may have understood the communications, heard the multiple warnings in the background, and been of some help.
This happened to me on approach to Montreal many years ago when the Captain of a Sabreliner was confused and lost situational awareness about other traffic because some pilots spoke in English and others in French. None of us knew where the others were. I spoke up about it and at least for a few moments everyone spoke English. Problem solved.
Ever since the Montreal based International Air Transport Association got involved in aviation, the English only rule has been slowly chipped away. Now we have a confusing patchwork of English/French acronyms that have confused aviation communication and made the skies more dangerous.
Bottom lining this incident, which thank God didn’t become an accident, the first rule in an automated cockpit that is going haywire, whether due to mis-selection of flight modes or malfunction is to “Kill the Automation!” We are pilots and whether it is a HondaJet or a Triple 7 all glass cockpit equipped airplanes are the same. They will get you into trouble in a blink of an eye and at low altitude in weather on an approach to an airport there is no time to fool around or try to reprogram or fix it. Just disconnect, execute a missed approach and FLY THE AIRPLANE.
Someone aboard the flight deck of this aircraft did just that and they all lived to fly another day. But before someone took control, there was confusion and disarray that could have spelled disaster.
Two lessons learned. Speak English! When in Doubt Kill the Automation and Fly the Aircraft!
Arthur Alan Wolk
April 6, 2022
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