Lost Laowai brings our attention to the following soundbyte of a conversation between an Air China pilot and the control tower of the JFK Airport in New York. In it, the pilot fails to understand anything that the traffic controller was saying and his English was so garbled that he might as well have been speaking in Esperanto — a language that is deemed so important that China Radio International‘s website has a version in it!
Now, like it or not, English is the international language of air traffic control, and pilots are required to have at least a basic mastery of the language. We are told by a friend who is a pilot with Singapore Airlines that whenever he flies to destinations in China, air traffic controllers here are always “trying their luck” by speaking to him in Mandarin, but Singapore Airlines pilots have been given clear instructions to answer back only in English to avoid any possible miscommunication and to prevent Chinese air traffic controllers from making a habit of “trying their luck”. Imagine what sort of disasters could otherwise happen during takeoff/landing and even on the runway.