Examples of aircraft Accidents and Incidents, due to the lack of 
   understanding English.

1.  Indian Air Crash: Tapes point blame at Kazakh pilot. Officials blame poor English for disaster at 14,000ft



2.  Plane's mayday call missed due to pilot's poor English   Italian airliner carrying 104


3.  Foreign pilots' poor grasp of English is putting lives at risk, warns regulator. Plane pilots' use of English is so poor lives are being put at risk, the Civil Aviation Authority has warned.

4.  A Polish flight crew forced to rely on air traffic control directions after their navigation system shut down nearly collided with another plane over Heathrow because they had such poor English


These are historical examples where one link in the chain of events leading to tragedy was miscommunication.

1971. Alaska 111 died. There was misleading navigational information.

1972. Florida 101 died. The ATC made a non-standard query.

1976. Zagreb 176 died. Language errors were made by the ATC.

1977. Tenerife 583 died. Dutch pilot used English words according to Dutch language.

It was a bomb explosion at the nearby Gran Canaria Airport that forced KLM Flight 4805 and Pan Am Flight 1736 to divert to Los Rodeos Airport (now Tenerife North Airport) on March 27, 1977, for what would turn out to be a fateful day. A dense fog, lack of ground radar at the small airport and several miscommunications resulted in the two Boeing 747 passenger aircraft colliding on the runway in what remains to this day the deadliest accident in commercial aviation history. All 248 passengers and crew aboard the KLM flight perished, along with 335 of the 396 people aboard the Pan Am flight, resulting in a staggering death toll of 583.

Lasting Impact: Air traffic control phraseology was standardized to reduce the chance of misunderstandings, which were believed to have played a crucial role in the events leading up to the accident. The disaster also led to the concept of Crew Resource Management, and gave less experienced flight crew more leeway to challenge their captains if they believed something was not correct.

1981. California 34 injured. Confusion over the meaning of HOLD.

1980. Tenerife. 146 died. Confusion between TURNS LEFT and TURN LEFT.

1981. Corsica. 180 died. Ambiguous language. Hit high ground.

1983. Madrid. 169 died. Wrong communication procedure.

1984. Virginia. 93 died. Confusion about clearance.

1986. East Berlin 72 died. Confusion between right and left.

1989. Azores. 144 died. Communication error with tower.

1989. Surinam. Pilot ignored tower instructions. This could be due to language mismatch.

1990. New York. 75 died. Copilot used wrong message about fuel shortage.

Avianca Flight 52  flight left Medellín with more than enough fuel for the journey and progressed toward JFK normally. While en route, the flight was placed in three holding patterns. Due to poor communication between the Pilots and the Air Traffic Controllers, as well as an inadequate management of the fuel load by the pilots, the flight became critically low on fuel. This dire situation was not recognized as an emergency by the controllers. The flight attempted to make a landing at JFK, but bad weather, coupled with poor communication and inadequate management of the aircraft, forced it to abort and attempt a go-around. The flight ran out of fuel before it was able to make a second landing attempt. The airplane crashed approximately 20 miles (32 km) from JFK.

1993. China. 16 died. Pilot didn’t understand English warning of ground proximity. Pilot didn‘t understand PULL UP.

1994. Japan. 264 died. Chinese pilot, autopilot with English instructions.

1995. Colombia. 159 died. Confusion between charts and flight management system, similarity of beacon names ROSO and ROMEO, controller’s inability to speak conversational English.

1996. India. 349 died. Midair collision. Three native languages involved: Hindi, Arabic, Kazakh.

The world’s deadliest mid-air collision occurred on Nov. 12, 1996, over the village of Charkhi Dadri, west of New Delhi. Saudi Arabian Airlines Flight 763 had just departed New Delhi and Kazakhstan Airlines Flight 1907 was arriving when they crashed, killing all 349 people on both flights.

Lasting Impact: The Kazakhstani pilots were found to lack English language skills and were relying entirely on their radio operator for communications with air traffic control.  Indira Gandhi International Airport, meanwhile, used the same corridor for arrivals and departures, but did not have secondary surveillance radar to produce exact readings of aircraft altitudes. Both of these things changed in the aftermath, and the Civil Aviation Authorities in India made it mandatory that all aircraft flying into or out of the country be equipped with an Airborne Collision Avoidance System.

1997. Seattle. No deaths. Russian pilot couldn’t speak with controller, began to land on a city street. A similar event also occurred in 1999 in Israel.

1998. Taiwan. 202 died. Blame placed on communication, coordination, cooperation.

1999. Chicago. No deaths. Chinese 747 misunderstood taxi directions, got in front of another 747 taking off.

1999. Shanghai. 8 died. Korean pilot, Chinese controller.

1999. Ecuador. No deaths. A 727 with 110 passengers at wrong airport with too short a runway. Barely got airborne again soon enough. Going to the wrong
airport is self-evident miscommunication.

1999. New York. No deaths. Near collision. Three languages: Icelandic, French, English.

1999. England. No deaths. Near collision, Korean and British 747’s.

1999. Kosovo. 24 died. Italian pilot of this UN flight told controller he couldn’t understand computer generated English, presumably a ground proximity alarm.

1999. L.A. No deaths. Aermexico runway incursion into path of a departing 757 with 133 aboard. 757 lifted off early.

2000. Taiwan. 82 died. Singapore Airlines 747 misunderstood, used runway 6 Right instead of 6 Left, and collided with construction site.

2000. Chicago. No deaths. A London-bound aircraft took off from a runway which had been reported closed due to electrical repairs.

2001. Japan. No deaths. Two Japan Airliners at 36,000 feet missed each other by only 33 feet, due to a confusing exchange of instructions from controllers. 700 might have died.

2001. Paris. 1 died. One plane was guided in English, one in French.

2001. Peru. 2 died. Missionary plane shot down in Spanish - English confusion.

2001. Milan. 118 died. German pilot, Italian controller. Into path of a SAS taking off.

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