JFK ATC Gets Irritated With LATAM 777 Pilots

JFK ATC Gets Irritated With LATAM 777 Pilots

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As an aviation geek, I spend way too much of my free time tracking flights on Flightradar24, and listening to air traffic control audio. Along those lines, here’s an interesting exchange between an air traffic controller at JFK and LATAM pilots.

LATAM pilot struggles to understand JFK ATC

Some air traffic controllers at JFK are known for speaking incredibly fast, and also having a short fuse. At times that leads to some unprofessional and frustrating exchanges, especially given how many foreign pilots JFK has.

Perhaps the most famous ATC exchange ever at JFK was over a decade ago, between a ground controller and the pilots of an Air China Boeing 747 that were operating flight CA981. If you haven’t heard that before, you can find it below.

Earlier this month (on March 8, 2023), a pretty interesting exchange happened between a JFK ground controller and the pilots of a LATAM Boeing 777-300ER that had just landed from Sao Paulo. The gate wasn’t quite ready for the plane, meaning that the LATAM jet had to stay on the taxiway for some extra time, before entering the ramp (which often involves taxiing around, so that no taxiways are blocked).

There ended up being a major communication gap between the air traffic controller and the pilots. Below you can see the VASAviation video of the exchange, which includes both the audio and a visualization of what happened. I figure that’s better than me trying to summarize the incident.

Who was in the wrong — the controller or the pilots?

The LATAM pilots definitely could have had a better grasp of English, and were clearly struggling to understand the directions they were given. Ideally that wouldn’t be the case, but it’s pretty common, especially at airports like JFK.

It’s quite dismaying to see how the ground controller is communicating with the pilots, though. If someone doesn’t have a great grasp of the English language and doesn’t understand you, you think the solution is to just say it again, only faster and more angrily? Wouldn’t it make more sense to speak a bit more slowly, so you hopefully don’t have to repeat yourself multiple times?

It reminds me a bit of many of the TSA agents you’ll find at JFK, especially at Terminal 1. The terminal sees a lot of foreigners, so rather than kindly explaining the rules to them, they yell really angrily and talk fast, thinking that will make the situation better.

I imagine the LATAM pilots were also caught off guard by the instruction that they should taxi onto a runway. We’ve seen quite a few ground incidents lately at US airports, so the pilots probably assumed that they must have misunderstood that, but struggled to communicate.

I think this comment on the YouTube video sums up the situation pretty well:

This should be presented on ATCO training on how not to deal with a communications problem.

Yes, there’s definitely a language barrier (amongst other factors), but what a terrible management by JFK ground. Once a communication issue is detected, the controller insists on speaking fast. Instead of deescalating the situation, the ATCO just made things way worse putting more pressure onto an already confused crew! That’s definitely not the proper way to deal with this kind of situation, making it way worse as if JFK GND wasn’t stressful enough. That’s not a proper attitude from an Air Navigation Services Provider at the level and importance of JFK.

The TAM crew sounds lost and confused, and beyond the language barrier, there are hints that they were not aware of the differences between ICAO and FAA phraseology and procedures. There aren’t many airports in Brazil with 2 or more runways, so the pilots are strongly educated to only enter runways if explicitly cleared to do so by the TWR. Getting a taxi authorization from the GND to enter a runway is not something usual here, so it’s something that could have played a factor on why they didn’t comply with the instructions.

Kudos to the Republic crew, acting to solve the situation, doing the job of both the TAM8180 and JFK GND.

Bottom line

A JFK ground controller and LATAM Boeing 777 pilots had a pretty heated exchange on the morning of March 8, 2023. While the pilots definitely struggled with their grasp of the English language, the controller wasn’t making things better by simply repeating the same thing faster and more angrily. Unfortunately this seems to be the standard operating procedure for many JFK controllers…

What do you make of this ATC exchange?

Conversations (98)
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  1. joanie adams Guest

    Uhh, that would tax the patience of job. Kinda scary.

  2. Brent Guest

    Well considering NY people can berude as it is, then couple it with the stress of trying to make a foreign pilot understand instructions and they still don’t “get it”, you’ve got a powder keg waiting (and frequently) to go off.
    Maybe the controllers need to take some chill pills when they come on shift or maybe find another career or retire!

  3. Ado Bo Guest

    So you have a very busy ATC that is severely short staffed ratio and each available controller has 10 flts backed up on the taxiways, another 10 coming in, and another 10 wanting to depart, and you have to take timeout and slowly take your time to try and explain instructions to a flight crewe what to do in your sweetest voice so as to not irk them while they struggle with the mandatory and...

    So you have a very busy ATC that is severely short staffed ratio and each available controller has 10 flts backed up on the taxiways, another 10 coming in, and another 10 wanting to depart, and you have to take timeout and slowly take your time to try and explain instructions to a flight crewe what to do in your sweetest voice so as to not irk them while they struggle with the mandatory and required international language of commercial aviation communications. Seriously?!?...

  4. Josh Guest

    This is how JFK ATC talks, and how they’ve always talked. You gotta talk fast, listen, and move. It’s the only way an airport with this configuration is going to operate efficiently. Every pilot who has ever flown into JFK knows they will be asked what taxiway entrance they need AND if the gate is open. TAM flies daily to JFK and its crews know what to expect - this is also the kind of...

    This is how JFK ATC talks, and how they’ve always talked. You gotta talk fast, listen, and move. It’s the only way an airport with this configuration is going to operate efficiently. Every pilot who has ever flown into JFK knows they will be asked what taxiway entrance they need AND if the gate is open. TAM flies daily to JFK and its crews know what to expect - this is also the kind of “local knowledge” usually passed along in familiarization training before flying to a new destination.

    The fact that the crew ignored multiple instructions to enter the runway — and didn’t ask any questions if unsure — suggests their English skills are the primary issue here.

    In order to fly into the USA, you need to (self-certify) that you speak ICAO Level 4 English. This crew did not have the necessary language skills to effectively understand. And that’s scary.

  5. FlyerDon Guest

    Sometimes you can be right, by the letter of the law, but wrong by the reality of the real world. If the controller can’t deal with that maybe he should transfer to MCI, Kansas City.

  6. Sam Guest

    As a linguist (interpreter), I’d suggest rephrasing and speaking slower. You’d think it’s common sense. You’d think they (atc) were trained for it. New Yorkers, in general, are rude. Why anyone would go there on their own volition is beyond me.

  7. Travelman5 Guest

    I can’t believe how fast and unclear ATC person was speaking. Too much at stake. Slow down, speak clearer. I think TAM was trying as best he could. Third party Republic Captain saved the day. Great interpretation and intervention services!

  8. Jack Guest

    Didn't sound 'really angrily' to me. If anyone is coming to this country or piloting an aircraft into this country then they had better learn English and learn it well! When I visit a foreign country, I don't expect them to speak English so I learn the language if expecting to communicate, even at a basic level. The same goes for visitors to the US. It's ridiculous, ignorant and rude to expect English speakers to...

    Didn't sound 'really angrily' to me. If anyone is coming to this country or piloting an aircraft into this country then they had better learn English and learn it well! When I visit a foreign country, I don't expect them to speak English so I learn the language if expecting to communicate, even at a basic level. The same goes for visitors to the US. It's ridiculous, ignorant and rude to expect English speakers to understand whatever native dialect that a visitor from another country may speak. Not going to happen.

    1. Gio Guest

      Jack, you are missing the point and are confusing the fact that people *should* speak good English as a general policy in aviation (your comparison with tourists does not hold) with the safety importance that ATC should make sure the situation is solved safely. From that point of view, once the controller sees a crew is confused and not doing what they are told to do, whatever the cause, ATC needs to try to deescalate...

      Jack, you are missing the point and are confusing the fact that people *should* speak good English as a general policy in aviation (your comparison with tourists does not hold) with the safety importance that ATC should make sure the situation is solved safely. From that point of view, once the controller sees a crew is confused and not doing what they are told to do, whatever the cause, ATC needs to try to deescalate the issue and make the crew comply. It's not a matter of principles. It's a matter of safety.

    2. David Diamond

      Right. Too many focused on who was right and who was wrong, when the correct way to handle the situation is to deescalate and find a better way to communicate. Faster, louder and angrier ain't it.

      Handle the fault issue afterwards. I rather be safe than right.

  9. David Miller Guest

    It’s a very basic thing to speak clearly when taking with people who are having trouble understanding you. Not to do that is just stupid and immature. But I especially fault the management for not anticipating this inevitable situation and providing training and having requirements for ATC staff. This is an appalling and preventable situation.

  10. George hatley Guest

    I have a commercial instrument rating and 1500 hours.I have had some nasty controllers and some cool ones.But in the pre Reagan years alot were arrogant.So I was not totally sorry when Reagan busted the union.

  11. Roy Guest

    While there was an obvious language barrier, the controller in this case made matters worst. Once it was clear that the pilot had difficulties understanding the instructions the controller should have lowered his voice, speak slowly and resorted to the use of standard aviation phraseologies.

  12. Dhanesh Guest

    The defacto language of ATCs around the world is English. This is just one more area China is flouting the accepted rules and thumbing its nose at the West.

    My 2-cents on this.

    BTW, I speak 5 languages.

  13. Eskimo Guest

    Why are we even arguing over whos at fault when the whole system is obsolete.

    Solve the problem by removing ATC and pilot. Use fully automation systems, planes can talk to each other faster, very accurate, and never being an as..ole.

  14. Herman Guest

    I have Spanish background and the instructions from the ATC were pretty clear to me in my lousy phone speaker, I believe with NC headsets as Pilots usually wear it should me clearer. The controller was even clearer on the second time he instructed... I think this one goes wrong for LA pilots... They need to have better English listening

  15. Reed Guest

    All the instructions will or should be not spoken but written too that way you can understand what the ATC is trying to say or communicate, also some ATC are working under stress too .

  16. Kerwin Napoles Guest

    All the way it is ATC fault !!!!!! These controllers must understand there is a vast difference in Aviation English than regular English !!!! Also these controllers must have more patiences with foreign pilots who don't have mastery of the English language !!!! Also foreign airlines must also train there pilots better in command of the English language ! English is the international language of Aviation ! Same goes for the foreign atc ! This...

    All the way it is ATC fault !!!!!! These controllers must understand there is a vast difference in Aviation English than regular English !!!! Also these controllers must have more patiences with foreign pilots who don't have mastery of the English language !!!! Also foreign airlines must also train there pilots better in command of the English language ! English is the international language of Aviation ! Same goes for the foreign atc ! This is coming from a avid Aviation enthusiast !!!

    1. Boeing Guest

      English is the official ATC language. Amateur English speakers should not be flying aircraft in to JFK. The controller does not have the time to continue to explain basic commands to a pilot. The stakes are too high at major airports like JFC. A professional pilot MUST be proficient in the global language required to be spoken in all ATC conversations globally. It has nothing to do with racism. It is a huge safety issue...

      English is the official ATC language. Amateur English speakers should not be flying aircraft in to JFK. The controller does not have the time to continue to explain basic commands to a pilot. The stakes are too high at major airports like JFC. A professional pilot MUST be proficient in the global language required to be spoken in all ATC conversations globally. It has nothing to do with racism. It is a huge safety issue when the pilot isn't fluent enough to understand that he is not being cleared to the ramp. This isn't some sensitivity class. There are real life consequences and a ground controller at JFK is not able to handhold this clown.

  17. JD Guest

    All you snowflakes don't understand high stakes airport operations. The ground controller on this recording is an extremely well-known and an extremely experienced JFK controller.

    English is the international language for air traffic communications. All pilots are required to be proficient - period.

    In addition, the reason they can talk so fast is because the instructions are proscribed in advance. I.e. when I call ATC, I already know what instructions I should be expecting....

    All you snowflakes don't understand high stakes airport operations. The ground controller on this recording is an extremely well-known and an extremely experienced JFK controller.

    English is the international language for air traffic communications. All pilots are required to be proficient - period.

    In addition, the reason they can talk so fast is because the instructions are proscribed in advance. I.e. when I call ATC, I already know what instructions I should be expecting. I also know the format of the response I'm going to get. Assuming this isn't an international heavy pilot's first day, I would expect him to know the same.

    This pilot is struggling to understand even when a question was asked. Back taxing on a runway at an airport like JFK is a normal procedure when that runway is not in use. This guy has a heavy aircraft, which means a wide wingspan. He may block use of the other taxiway by being on bravo. So the request is not out of the ordinary.

    The bottom line is this guy does not have proficiency of the English language. That's part of his job. So let's stop making excuses for him and blaming the JFK controller. Those guys have a limited amount of time to deal with a lot of traffic and keep everybody safe.

    This guy needs to brush up on his English and his phrasology. The pilot is the one making this exchange unsafe.

    1. MBL Guest

      The only one coming across as a “snowflake” here is you. The ground controller was acting like a hormonal teenager throwing a tantrum. Hopefully they get a nice talking to.

    2. FlyerDon Guest

      “when I call ATC, I already know what instructions I should be expecting. I also know the format of the response I’m going to get”.
      Hey fellow pilots, that’s a perfect example of what not to do when talking with ATC.

  18. Corey Amey Guest

    Most comments; come from people who don't work, or have never had a job, and it shows.

    The author; this is probably the hardest they have ever worked, assuming they are human.

    "Couldn't he just slow down and repeat it back slower a few times until they understood?"

    No... He couldn't. He has probably 6 other planes to guide, and most aren't just sitting on the runway with their D in their hand.

    Chinese dude...

    Most comments; come from people who don't work, or have never had a job, and it shows.

    The author; this is probably the hardest they have ever worked, assuming they are human.

    "Couldn't he just slow down and repeat it back slower a few times until they understood?"

    No... He couldn't. He has probably 6 other planes to guide, and most aren't just sitting on the runway with their D in their hand.

    Chinese dude should understand better English than he speaks. I work for southern Indians, after 5 years I can barely understand the older ones. They can understand me just fine though. I have a deep Texas draw. Even my euphemisms are sometimes well understood.

    I love how the author complains about how the traffic control handles it.

    Articles like this are why the world is going to hell. Wonder how many more pilots or traffic control operators will commit suicide after reading this.

    1. David Diamond

      What does a Chinese dude have to do with LATAM? You're letting your racism show. The ATC has time to repeat the same thing over and over but not enough time to show down once?

    2. Mbl Guest

      Man sounds like you’re really struggling emotionally at the moment. What a nonsense comment. Suicide, really? One single critical article and the ATC world is collapsing?

  19. Fuamiki Guest

    USA ATC needs to speak standard icao phraseology. And this guy needs his attitude corrected in an alley way!

  20. Norman Lesmerises Guest

    ATC controllers are of the impression that if they speak louder, faster, and in their best local colloquial accent, they can solve a language issue!! Slow down and speak clearly will work better.

  21. Carrie Gold

    Ben, when to you have 'free time'? Between a comprehensive blog, travel and a new baby .... you must never sleep! But a huge thank you for bringing this avworld to us.

  22. Peter Guest

    Why not have a “follow me” guidance truck driving ahead of the plane to the assigned runway. It saves unnecessary yapping, confusion and time.

  23. Nan Guest

    I fully believe this is old and did not just occur. I've heard it before, quite a while back. That says, this controller needs to be replaced, as he is often rude and unprofessional.

  24. Andy Guest

    Have a FOLLOW ME truck in standby

  25. Newbs Guest

    I flew for a major SE Asian airline for 26 years all around the world. Without doubt, JFK had the worst R/T discipline of any of the airports I operated into. Non-ICAO English, heavily accented US accents and speaking too quickly - a great challenge for the many pilots who have English as a second language. I am English and often had immense difficulty in communicating with JFK ATC, particularly the ground frequencies. JFK is...

    I flew for a major SE Asian airline for 26 years all around the world. Without doubt, JFK had the worst R/T discipline of any of the airports I operated into. Non-ICAO English, heavily accented US accents and speaking too quickly - a great challenge for the many pilots who have English as a second language. I am English and often had immense difficulty in communicating with JFK ATC, particularly the ground frequencies. JFK is a busy, complex airport with overcrowded R/T frequencies and difficult to navigate if you are not familiar with it - something which is not recognised by the ATC controllers. I once remember, having received an unexpected, complex change to a departure clearance, asking the controller to "say again" after I failed to write it down properly, only to be told "I've already told you once" - I replied, in my best English accent, "well, could you please repeat it again, this time slowly, so I can write it down, and in English". I was sent to the "sin bin" - told to hold my position for 5 mins!

  26. Soraya Guest

    JFK airport have to understand that they are an internacional airport and acting the way the twr did, shows unprofesionalism to the max. They forget that the world has no many different languages and if you can't try to communicate in a decent manner, we'll, this is not the place for you to work at. Shame on JFK airport operations in general!

    1. FlyOften Guest

      English is the international language of ATC.
      Know it well when driving a plane or gtfo

    2. BBK Diamond

      What are you talking about? the only unprofessional part here is the absolutely lacking English level, amazing for a heavy.

  27. Jk Guest

    I have tested C1 fluency in Spanish, have studied and spoken it for years and have lived in Spanish-speaking countries. I speak Spanish better than many Latin American pilots speak English (required Level 4 or B2).

    Despite my relative fluency, I occasionally struggle with rapid, heavily accented or non-standard Spanish.

    Some of the comments suggest that it's impossible that the LATAM pilots could have been fluent in English. I disagree. JFK's notoriously unprofessional ATC seems...

    I have tested C1 fluency in Spanish, have studied and spoken it for years and have lived in Spanish-speaking countries. I speak Spanish better than many Latin American pilots speak English (required Level 4 or B2).

    Despite my relative fluency, I occasionally struggle with rapid, heavily accented or non-standard Spanish.

    Some of the comments suggest that it's impossible that the LATAM pilots could have been fluent in English. I disagree. JFK's notoriously unprofessional ATC seems determined to make things difficult on any second language speaker of English, even one who has spoken or studied English for decades.

  28. John Guest

    English is the international language of aviation. If your comprehension of English isn't good enough, then don't fly international. I would have loved to hear how Kennedy Steve would have handled that.

  29. John Kaman Guest

    ATC does not have time to give language lessons to foreign pilots. If ChinaAir pilot cannot speak or understand English he has no business flying into JFK. His lack of understanding is dangerous to other planes. I didn’t think ATC was rude but when you have to repeat an instruction 5 times you might get irritated too.

  30. Brawndo Guest

    These comments are hilarious. Lucky it wasn't O'Hare. That's as clear as it gets, ICAO standard instructions repeated several times followed by missed turns. Miscommunication? Ok, you stop... End of story.

  31. Rob Guest

    Lucky, please stop posting clickbait. You have no idea what is happening here because you are not a pilot. If you were you would understand that these pilots for LATAM should NOT be flying to JFK. English is the official language of aviation, everywhere, not just English speaking countries but Al countries. So please go work on your private pilot license like Sam Chui did, then you can have an option on this.

  32. Bob Guest

    My doctor saved my life when I had surgery. If you talk to him you will quickly realize he is inpatient, will dismiss you quickly, not exactly warm and fuzzy. I knew this going in but I didn't care. I wasn't looking for a friend but someone competent, know how to do the job right and if he p*ss off everyone along the way so be it. At least I know people who are not...

    My doctor saved my life when I had surgery. If you talk to him you will quickly realize he is inpatient, will dismiss you quickly, not exactly warm and fuzzy. I knew this going in but I didn't care. I wasn't looking for a friend but someone competent, know how to do the job right and if he p*ss off everyone along the way so be it. At least I know people who are not prepared or have doubts won't be in his vicinity and yes I very much appreciate that type of personality when lives are in question. Do so you want a warm and fuzzy atc at jfk or one who gets the job done. You can't always find the person who is both an expert, your best friend and makes everyone feel good.

    1. A. Wolf Guest

      They assume that all pilots understand the English language 100%; all the controllers have to do is slow down when giving instructions and I firmly believe the confusion would have been solved. When you learn a foreign language, you don’t grasp it fully like some native speakers (and not all native speakers have a great command of the English language, especially in the US). But then again, I didn’t expect anything else from a NY controller; I avoid NY at all costs.

    2. De Anda Guest

      Very good and reasonable comments!
      Hopefully JFK will do something with controllers for the safety of all.

    3. JD Guest

      But you don't understand - he wasn't even talking fast! Controller was perfectly understandable.

      This is not fast. And the controller doesn't have time to repeat things six times for all the reasons listed above (busy airport, large airplane, lots of traffic, the fact that one plane could completely gum up the works in terms of efficiency - or result in a wing strike or worse)

      Give me a break. This pilot needs remedial...

      But you don't understand - he wasn't even talking fast! Controller was perfectly understandable.

      This is not fast. And the controller doesn't have time to repeat things six times for all the reasons listed above (busy airport, large airplane, lots of traffic, the fact that one plane could completely gum up the works in terms of efficiency - or result in a wing strike or worse)

      Give me a break. This pilot needs remedial English. He didn't even understand when he was being asked a question. He has no business flying into an airport like JFK until he remediates.

      Lucky - agree with the other posters. I love your blog, but stay out of commenting on stuff like this. You have no idea what you're talking about and it shows.

    4. Gio Guest

      Ok, your doctor saved your life and made surgery. But what if the doctor is not able to communicate with his team and the surgery fails because the instructions were not understood by the other team members? It is not a matter of being polite, it's a matter of safety. The job of the ATC includes also making sure that the instructions they give are understood and executed. Otherwise the surgery fails.

  33. Dan W Guest

    In defense of JFK Ground, it’s cultural. NY/NJ residents are both fast paced and openly express their feelings. You mix impatience with no filer to say what’s on one’s mind and this is what you get. Right? Wrong? It is their way. Don’t like it? Don’t go there. I had to adjust when I lived there. They are not a-holes, just blunt. They are also very kind and generous people, neither passive aggressive nor shallow....

    In defense of JFK Ground, it’s cultural. NY/NJ residents are both fast paced and openly express their feelings. You mix impatience with no filer to say what’s on one’s mind and this is what you get. Right? Wrong? It is their way. Don’t like it? Don’t go there. I had to adjust when I lived there. They are not a-holes, just blunt. They are also very kind and generous people, neither passive aggressive nor shallow. You can learn to fly a 777 you can learn to communicate in English.

  34. Bruce Guest

    Aside from expecting everyone to speak English, Americans have a general contempt for foreigners who they generally deem inferior just for the fact that they are not American. Because, as one very intelligent American put it, the USA is the centre of the Solar System.

    1. Vito from the Bronx Guest

      NYC is the center of the solar system AND the universe… got that tough guy?

    2. A. Wolf Guest

      Slowly but surely, the center of gravity is shifting.

    3. John Kaman Guest

      This has nothing to do with Americans expecting everyone to speak English. The international language of aviation is English so if you want to fly anywhere in the world you better know how to land a plane with 500 people on board.

    4. Aussie Guest

      The irony is these same American pricks that get testy when somebody struggles with English inevitably can’t speak any other language.

      Multilingual people don’t behave like this.

  35. Sali Guest

    Shame on you mate, clearly, when you work in a multi cultural environment, it is part of the job, to be patient and understanding, speaking faster and faster, instead of trying to help the other understand you better, make you look bad. After all, you should be cooperating as a team.

  36. Christopher Callen Guest

    Besides the unprofessional ATCO, the blame should also fall upon The FAA and JFK management. Obviously, the mental strain of directing air traffic within one of the world’s busiest airports hasn’t adequately been addressed. Gross understaffing and increased workloads have become significant influences affecting operational performance at numerous major airports.

    I can only imagine the stress level that ATCOs must be coping with during the increasing number of domestic and international flights, on top...

    Besides the unprofessional ATCO, the blame should also fall upon The FAA and JFK management. Obviously, the mental strain of directing air traffic within one of the world’s busiest airports hasn’t adequately been addressed. Gross understaffing and increased workloads have become significant influences affecting operational performance at numerous major airports.

    I can only imagine the stress level that ATCOs must be coping with during the increasing number of domestic and international flights, on top of multilingual communication exchanges. We’ve already heard news media reports about several, recent, ‘ close calls ‘ and ‘ near miss ’ incidents between aircraft on runways at various U.S. hub airports.

    At the risk of sounding like a harbinger of doom and gloom, ‘ It’s just a matter of time ’ before horrific air traffic-related disasters occur at one or more that will force the entire commercial aviation industry and public officials to finally acknowledge the impending crisis and implement sweeping communication and traffic safety reforms. Sadly, with the commercial airlines more concerned with maximizing profitability and flight capacity over safety, any significant changes will require high-profile tragedies and substantial liability settlements before substantial implementation occurs.

  37. Stephen Guest

    JFK Controllers… typical asshole New Yorkers! They need to leave the fast talking and the Nyoo Yawk attitudes at home! I clearly heard him say, turn left on gulf, which would, of course take the plane to bravo!

    1. Clarifier Guest

      That’s not quite right. Turning left onto G did lead them to intersect B. But they weren’t supposed to turn left onto B as they did, they should have continued straight on G, _passing_ B, and then turned onto 4L. Instead they turned left prematurely, onto B.

    2. Palaniappan Rajaram Guest

      No, Gnd clearly said to turn left on 4L and hold short of F.

    3. Palaniappan Rajaram Guest

      Turn left on Golf (intersects Alpha and Bravo taxiways)
      Turn left on 4L
      Hold short of Foxtrot

      Those were the instructions.

    4. Dave Guest

      JFK CONTROLLERS SHOULD UNDERSTAND THE RULE OF ATC IS TO ASSIST PILOTS NOT UNDERSTANDING ATC INSTRUCTIONS!!!! Walk them through the taxi, as controllers handle student Pilots, if the don’t understand! The controller work load wasn’t even busy, so take the time to help a foreign pilot out…. Don’t embarrass the FAA, NATCA, and all Controllers!! If you are burned out, get an office job downstairs!!!!

  38. Eskimo Guest

    So funny people blaming the language barrier but still relying on obsolete technology.

    Automate all of it. Remove (annoying) human error out of the equation.
    It's not a New Yorker thing, it's a human thing.

    ATC and Pilots are both obsolete.

  39. Peter Guest

    JFK seems to feature a lot in ATC communication problems. Too often they speak too fast, are sarcastic or rude. Just like the rest of New York!

    The FAA should get involved to rid JFK ATC of this macho and unprofessional attitude.

  40. Fsuga Guest

    If an airline hires a pilot that is not perfectly fluent in English, and an incident happens, they should be sued out of business. It is the language of the air. Don't play games with lives. Understanding 85% of the language isn't even close to good enough.

    1. Bob Guest

      Nyc is not a place to coddle people in training. Jfk on top of that is definitely not a place for anyone but experts. People die when amateurs get involved. Pilots want to learn, fine, fly to Topeka. This is why people move to nyc and quickly leave. It's like training to be a doctor. If you don't belong nyc will weed out the weak very quickly. That's just the way it is. It's the...

      Nyc is not a place to coddle people in training. Jfk on top of that is definitely not a place for anyone but experts. People die when amateurs get involved. Pilots want to learn, fine, fly to Topeka. This is why people move to nyc and quickly leave. It's like training to be a doctor. If you don't belong nyc will weed out the weak very quickly. That's just the way it is. It's the same in places like paris, Hong Kong, tokyo. People coming from slow cities haven't level up to work in ny. Sorry to hurt your feelings.

    2. Wolff13 Gold

      I avoid ny, every inch of it, like the plague

  41. T- Guest

    When the controller repeated himself both angrily and quickly, I got a little angry at him myself. My question is, does a pilot have much recourse in such an event?

    1. Jen Guest

      RECOURSE? The controller barely snapped at him. I’ve been reprimanded worse while ordering “wrong” or too slowly at a food joint in Boston. I was waiting to hear some form of an expletive, but all he did was express his exasperation. It’s normal in the real world where lives are literally on the line. You’re not being waited on at the Four Seasons. Do any of us enjoy being scolded? No, but it forces you to be quicker on your feet. One can’t take it personally.

  42. Ron Guest

    As a controller who works airspace with tons of foreign military pilots training, I understand the frustration with the language barrier. Luckily in my case there is always an American trainer with the students to correct anything, but it definitely adds an additional layer of complexity when you're unsure if a pilot understands what they're being asked to do.

  43. David Diamond

    I think the biggest issue is that when a situation comes up, the immediate course of action should be resolving it for all parties involved, not trying to determine fault. The ATC did not try to resolve the communication issue, and instead escalated and made the situation worse. This is unprofessional, and this is especially not what should be done when hundreds of lives are at stake.

    There's a time and place for complaints, and...

    I think the biggest issue is that when a situation comes up, the immediate course of action should be resolving it for all parties involved, not trying to determine fault. The ATC did not try to resolve the communication issue, and instead escalated and made the situation worse. This is unprofessional, and this is especially not what should be done when hundreds of lives are at stake.

    There's a time and place for complaints, and in the middle of a situation is not that time.

    1. grichard Guest

      This is a useful comment. There are really two separate questions here. First, did the crew have adequate English proficiency? (I dunno.) Second, given that that crew *did* fly, did ATC handle it optimally?

      I think the answer to the second question is pretty clearly no. ATC should have done what was necessary to guide the crew safely. The time to object that the crew was inadequately trained was later.

  44. Eddy Guest

    The best guy at JFK was Kennedy Steve. Too bad he is retired now, but what a comedian. His radio transmissions on Youtube are actually entertaining.

  45. Morgan Guest

    All pilots are required to be "english proficient" it is an endorsement on your pilot license. Even foreign carriers are required to be "english proficient". TAM was not english proficient. I didnt think the controller was mean. The controller gave instructions repeatedly and TAM failed to comply with those instructions. It is a safety of flight issue.

    1. Erick Guest

      You are mistaken. Many foreign carriers requiere a certain level of understanding of the English language. Pilots also Communicate in foreign languages with tower controllers in foreign air space.

    2. RCB Guest

      In Aviation English is REQUIRED as the default. You are allowed to speak to others in a foreign language if they understand it and are okay with it, but if someone demands English then you must comply, and if there are any doubts then English is the language that prevails. Not saying it's a perfect system, but a common language had to be chosen for this international issue and English is what was chosen.

  46. Donato Guest

    In my opinion too many people seem to not get it.
    There are requirements in order to fly a Jet.
    1, You must be qualified for that equipment.
    2, You must be able to communicate in English, the worldwide language of ATC. (You are permitted to slip into a local language in an emergency.)
    If you can not follow instructions in English you should not be operating the aircraft. While the...

    In my opinion too many people seem to not get it.
    There are requirements in order to fly a Jet.
    1, You must be qualified for that equipment.
    2, You must be able to communicate in English, the worldwide language of ATC. (You are permitted to slip into a local language in an emergency.)
    If you can not follow instructions in English you should not be operating the aircraft. While the lingo is a bit difficult for most of us the letter identifying words are standard and should be second nature to Pilots.
    Remember, even if you are sitting on an aircraft piloted by competent crew you might end up dead from an error made by an incompetent pilot on another aircraft.

    1. George Romey Guest

      This has nothing do with being "racist" and everything to do with a real time environment in which communication must be very fast paced and explicit. There is no room for error. If a pilot can't communicate effectively in English they shouldn't be piloting a large commercial wide body into one of the world's most congested and difficult airports. No controller has the time to do remedial English.

  47. Beth Guest

    Definitely traffic control was not empathetic! Being mean makes the situation worst. It is the air control's job to make sure the quality of communication is at its best and they need to understand they are not pilots' boss but instead they are team members coordinating the safest way to assist planes to arrive.

  48. Charlie Guest

    The Republic pilots that chimed in to help deserve a ton of credit for the their basic human assistance. They helped to at least get the TAM aircraft where it needed to be and helped the situation tremendously.

  49. EWR2TXL Guest

    For many native English speakers, English is the only language they speak and think that everyone else should speak it. I see this sort of situation at hotels and airports around the world, that the native speaker doesn't conform their speech to the level of the non-native and gets more and more frustrated when the non-native person doesn't understand. Just because another person "speaks English" doesn't necessarily mean that it is at an advanced level...

    For many native English speakers, English is the only language they speak and think that everyone else should speak it. I see this sort of situation at hotels and airports around the world, that the native speaker doesn't conform their speech to the level of the non-native and gets more and more frustrated when the non-native person doesn't understand. Just because another person "speaks English" doesn't necessarily mean that it is at an advanced level and they are just setting themselves up for failure.

    1. NycAlex Member

      Any pilot flying into JFK, smack dab in the heart of the some of the craziest airspace in the world, should have a 100% grasp on English. If the situation were reversed and I had to fly into airspace with only Spanish speaking ATC, I would spend countless hours perfecting my Spanish before feeling safe enough to go on that trip.

    2. David Diamond

      If JFK believes there's a serious safety issue with pilots who don't speak English at whatever non-defined standard they have, then they can go ahead and ban the airline from flying into the airport.

      The fact of the matter is there was a communication issue, and regardless of whose fault it is, ATC did not try to resolve the issue, and instead got angry and uncooperative. That's not professional, and it's not conductive to the safety of hundreds of lives.

    3. Erick Guest

      If you think that atc Controllers speak English like a native in foreign airports, you are mistaken. The opposite scenario happens when American pilots arrive on international hub, cdg, GRU, mxp.. You name it.

  50. Mak Guest

    A basic problem here is the ATC use of English colloquialism in the setting of an international airport with non-native English aviators. It is a common American linguistical style, and perhaps a more particularly New York thing, to note exasperation with a question rather than a statement. "Why are you on Bravo?" rather than "You should not be at Bravo."

    Of course the LATAM crew made an error, but the system understands that errors like...

    A basic problem here is the ATC use of English colloquialism in the setting of an international airport with non-native English aviators. It is a common American linguistical style, and perhaps a more particularly New York thing, to note exasperation with a question rather than a statement. "Why are you on Bravo?" rather than "You should not be at Bravo."

    Of course the LATAM crew made an error, but the system understands that errors like this will be made from time to time and is supposed to accommodate for them. The controller here had an opportunity to fix it with a simple statement, but instead confused the situation with a wise-ass question, which the already confused crew tried to answer.

    We aren't on the playground here boys and girls, so let's say what we mean and not get lost in foggy local rhetoric.

    1. NycAlex Member

      The problem, though, is they didn't make "an error". They made repeated errors. They were hitting 0% for a while. There are basic expectations from ATC. If you can't understand how to follow taxi instructions, or that when a phrase starts "JetBlue" that is isn't for a LATAM pilot, then maybe don't fly a plane with hundreds of people on it into JFK.

    2. Stephen Guest

      The JFK Controllers were typical NYC assholes! He clearly told the pilots to turn left on Gulf, which of course led them to Bravo! Then in typical NYC fashion, he smartass asks why they’re on Bravo.

    3. Clarifier Guest

      It led them to intersect B. They were supposed to continue straight on G, _passing_ B, and then turn onto 4L. Instead the turned left onto B.

  51. DCAWABN Guest

    I'm not a pilot nor involved in the aviation community besides being a nerd, but I *AM* a native English speaker. And even reading the "translation" on the video whilst listening to the audio, I'm still having a bit of difficult time understanding what's being said, independent of knowing taxiway/runway/ground ops shorthand and whatnot. The combination of rapid (but necessary, I'd presume) speech communications coupled with the slight radio distortion, RF background noise, and the...

    I'm not a pilot nor involved in the aviation community besides being a nerd, but I *AM* a native English speaker. And even reading the "translation" on the video whilst listening to the audio, I'm still having a bit of difficult time understanding what's being said, independent of knowing taxiway/runway/ground ops shorthand and whatnot. The combination of rapid (but necessary, I'd presume) speech communications coupled with the slight radio distortion, RF background noise, and the semi-constant keying of the mic off/on between multiple aircraft and pilots means there's a LOT going on. THEN you factor in the language barrier and...I guess I'm probably just not accustomed to it. But...I would expect all ground and ATC operators to have to maintain the service level for being the standard of slow, clear, and easily understood communication even if the inbound/outgoing pilots aren't as clear on the uptake. I could absolutely be wrong on this but who is ultimately responsible for ensuring there's no miscommunication, especially when getting pissy and talking faster and more garbled is clearly only going to exacerbate the situation.

    1. JimATL Guest

      Totally agree with this assessment. Also av geek, native English speaker and native NYCer.

    2. George Romey Guest

      Pilots are responsible for reading back all ATC commands to ensure to the controller the pilot 100% understands what has been received and understood. That includes notifying any garbled transmission. Failure can be catastrophic. Just look at the recent incursion of an AA plane onto a runway where a DL plane was taking off. There's no "niceties" in this process.

    3. DCAWABN Guest

      And that absolutely makes sense. The big "but", though, is when it's clear there's some disconnect between what's being asked/directed by ATC and what the pilots are hearing, there's the very real potential for some sort of drawn out feedback loop. When I was in the military, there was always a "Net Control" channel/operator on single channel radio that, should there be an issue of two parties being unable to communicate for whatever reason, being...

      And that absolutely makes sense. The big "but", though, is when it's clear there's some disconnect between what's being asked/directed by ATC and what the pilots are hearing, there's the very real potential for some sort of drawn out feedback loop. When I was in the military, there was always a "Net Control" channel/operator on single channel radio that, should there be an issue of two parties being unable to communicate for whatever reason, being from a higher echelon of chain-of-command would jump on to the channel experiencing problems and say something to the effect of

      Break! Break! This is Net Control. Station calling and station responding: Say again your last. Transmit slowly and clearly. Out."

      Or something to that effect that everyone on the channel would shut up, listen to Net Control, then proceed based on the direction just give.

      Who does that for comms at the airport? Is there a Net Control? Or someone to rein in the clusterfuck?

  52. D3kingg Guest

    Interesting you allow aircraft controllers at JFK to be racists who are impatient when a pilot is only 99% fluency in English.

    JFK ATC are jackasses. They once allowed an Avianca plane to run out of fuel and crash. That was on the night of the Giants and Bills super bowl. I wish NTSB would reopen that ACI. The consensus was a bunch of NY bureaucrats pointing the finger at the Avianca pilots for never using the word emergency.

    1. John Kaman Guest

      There’s nothing racist about insisting on clarity in English from pilots.

    2. BBK Diamond

      You usually write smart things.. amazing you got this totally off and like an absolute snowflake. 99% fluency?you gotta be trolling... What i'm amazed is the severe lack of English proficiency operating a heavy. This is a severe risk factor.

  53. NycAlex Member

    It's not just failing to understand English, they responded to a JetBlue command. That pilot will get someone killed at JFK if they fail basic atc communications like that.

  54. TravelinWilly Diamond

    “…so rather than kindly explaining the rules to them, they yell really angrily and talk fast, thinking that will make the situation better.”

    They don’t think it will make the situation better, they think it gives them power by intimidating people.

  55. George N Romey Guest

    There's a Youtube channel dedicated to pilot and ATC exchange and the ones from JFK are pretty funny. There used to be a JFK Controller called Kennedy Steve (I think that's the name but he's now retired) and he was quite the comedian. Telling pilots when asked where they prefer the a/c sit when waiting for a gate he'd prefer them in London or Atlanta. Telling pilots to follow the 1%-meaning follow a private jet.

    1. Wolff13 Gold

      I have not been to my in over two decades; when I fly to Europe, I avoid jfk like the plague.

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

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DCAWABN Guest

I'm not a pilot nor involved in the aviation community besides being a nerd, but I *AM* a native English speaker. And even reading the "translation" on the video whilst listening to the audio, I'm still having a bit of difficult time understanding what's being said, independent of knowing taxiway/runway/ground ops shorthand and whatnot. The combination of rapid (but necessary, I'd presume) speech communications coupled with the slight radio distortion, RF background noise, and the semi-constant keying of the mic off/on between multiple aircraft and pilots means there's a LOT going on. THEN you factor in the language barrier and...I guess I'm probably just not accustomed to it. But...I would expect all ground and ATC operators to have to maintain the service level for being the standard of slow, clear, and easily understood communication even if the inbound/outgoing pilots aren't as clear on the uptake. I could absolutely be wrong on this but who is ultimately responsible for ensuring there's no miscommunication, especially when getting pissy and talking faster and more garbled is clearly only going to exacerbate the situation.

5
Charlie Guest

The Republic pilots that chimed in to help deserve a ton of credit for the their basic human assistance. They helped to at least get the TAM aircraft where it needed to be and helped the situation tremendously.

4
TravelinWilly Diamond

“…so rather than kindly explaining the rules to them, they yell really angrily and talk fast, thinking that will make the situation better.” They don’t think it will make the situation better, they think it gives them power by intimidating people.

4
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