Language confusion led to fatal incursion

 - November 27, 2007, 9:32 AM

French air accident investigators have recently recommended that English be used for all ATC communication at major airports in France. The advisory is part of a preliminary report by the Bureau Enquete Accidents (BEA) into a May 25, 2000, accident at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport in which a twin-turboprop Shorts 330 operated by UK carrier Streamline Aviation collided with an Air Liberte  MD-83 on takeoff. John Andrew, the 43-year-old Shorts copilot, was killed in the accident.

The report concluded that the British crew may have been confused by the Paris controllers’ use of both French and English in their communications from the tower. They had been instructed to hold on the edge of Runway 27 as number two for takeoff after the MD-83, but entered the runway. The Shorts 330 was clipped by the larger airliner as it approached its rotation speed. The report also suggested that there had been inadequate coordination between the controllers handling the Shorts and the MD-83.

English is routinely used as the sole ATC language by controllers at other major European airports. French pilots have resisted pressure for it to be made mandatory at France’s main international gateways.

Copilot Andrew had 4,370 hr TT but had only logged 14 hr
in the Shorts 330 since joining Streamline on May 22, 2000. This included two previous departures from Charles de Gaulle.