Mexicana`s Pilots Are So .... Mexican!
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August 20, 2007, 09:14 PM
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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.