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Mis-Communication during emergency Situation

True Story

Last week, a B737 departed London Gatwick and during initial climb out deviated from the SID. A few moments later, the non-native English speaking pilot declared a Mayday due to a tail strike and was routed to a holding pattern to carry out checks.

A subsequent runway inspection revealed no scrape damage nor indication of a tail strike and airport operations resumed.

Approximately 30 minutes later, the aircraft was ready to make an approach and the Emergency services were alerted.

Airport operations advised ATC that camera footage of the departure showed a spark coming from the Number 2 engine on rotation but no evidence of a tail strike.

After a safe landing, whilst communicating with the emergency services, the Captain reported he had suffered a BIRD Strike.

Subsequent review of the ATC recordings confirmed that the pilot informed ATC that he had suffered a TAIL strike

The moral of the story - some non-native English speakers still have difficulty communicating with ATC during emergency situations. This was the main reason that ICAO introduced the mandatory English Language Proficiency Test back in 2008.

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