CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Pilot Magazine today CLICK HERE

ATC in French leads to English pilot's death

PUBLISHED: 11:07 23 June 2011 | UPDATED: 14:04 10 October 2012

A British co-pilot was killed and the captain seriously injured in a Shorts 330 turboprop at Paris, Charles de Gaulle.

A British co-pilot was killed and the captain seriously injured in a Shorts 330 turboprop at Paris, Charles de Gaulle. They had failed to understand an ATC instruction, in French, clearing another aircraft, an MD-83 passenger jet for take-off. The wing of the jet sliced through the cockpit of the Shorts cargo plane as it approached an intersection of the active runway, ahead of the departing jet. The Shorts was Number Two to take off.

French accident investigators have recommended, in their recent report into last year's accident, that France accepts English as the sole language for air traffic control. Shortly before the accident, French pilots and politicians had forced Air France to halt its own plans to make English mandatory for its Paris operations.

The cockpit recorder in the Shorts shows that the captain twice asked his co-pilot the location of the aircraft already cleared to take off. If he had understood French, or the ATC instruction had been in English, he would almost certainly have realised that it had been cleared to take off on the runway that he was entering.

There were 155 Spanish football supporters aboard the Air Liberté jet, whose pilot saw the Luton-bound Shorts just before his left wing sliced into the right-hand side of its cockpit.

ICAO recommends English as the common language for ATC, but countries are allowed to use their native tongue with their own pilots if they consider that safer.

Newsletter Sign Up

Pilot weekly newsletter
Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Most Read


Subscribe or buy Pilot Magazine