Mexicana's Pilots Are So .... Mexican!
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As is widely known, English is the "international language of aviation." For example, according to a Frequently Asked Questions page sponsored by the International Civil Aviation Organization [ICAO],

"[P]ilots on international flights shall demonstrate language proficiency in either English or the language used by the station on the ground."

However, this requirement apparently doesn't impress pilots for Mexican Airlines flying into Chicago's O'Hare International Airport [ORD], an airport where English is still frequently spoken. This nugget — also including an example of apparent Mexican machismo — is in Secrets From The Tower, a new "tell-all" book by Bob Richards, an air traffic controller retired from a career at ORD.

Richards's book is reviewed in the Chicago Tribune ("Author reflects on days in tower," August 20, 2007). According to reviewer Jon Hilkevitch:

"[Richards] wrote a chapter titled 'Yahoo Mexicana,' which loudly echoes the complaints of many O'Hare controllers about the general unpredictability and inexperience of pilots flying into Chicago for Mexicana Airlines. It's not unusual for Mexicana pilots, many speaking broken English and unable to keep up with the rat-tat-tat of radio communications, to take a wrong turn and get lost on the airfield, the controllers say.

"Richards recounts in the book an incident when a Mexicana plane roamed more than even the airline's normal custom looking for the assigned parking gate. It was 2 a.m. and there was no other traffic on the airfield, so Richards and a fellow controller just watched 'awestruck.'

"'Many foreign pilots in this situation would ask for directions [from the tower], but we had come across the ones too proud to do so,' he writes.

"Finally, Richards offered help and the pilot responded: 'Buenos dias, amigo. I think me need progressive [turn-by-turn instructions] to the gate.'"

The reviewer also quotes Richards making light of the problem:

"Richards provided direction, ending his verbal instructions with a crisp 'Buenos nachos.'

"'Till the day I retired, I said "Buenos nachos" to every Mexicana pilot,' Richards writes. 'Many came back laughing, but mostly all felt relaxed, knowing Americans were just as capable at making simple mistakes.'"

Ha ha!

Except with the Mexicana pilots, of course, there's this ICAO regulation mandating English proficiency. Well, maybe conforming to laws and regulations are tasks that Mexicans just won't do.

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