In 1976 a DC-9 and a Trident 3B collided over Zagreb in the former Yugoslavia; in 1977 two Boeing 747s collided on the ground in Tenerife; and in 1990 a Boeing 707 ran out of fuel after a missed approach and crashed at Cove Neck. Because they involved language issues and resulted in 832 deaths, these three accidents have been cited by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in justification of a worldwide program to improve the language proficiency of pilots and air traffic controllers. This paper shows that: (1) both linguistic and non-linguistic causal factors contributed to each accident; (2) a range of linguistic causal factors were involved, such as code switching and L1 interference, with each accident featuring different factors; and (3) the linguistic factors were in all three cases exacerbated by the effects of high workload, stress and fatigue.
(2011). Zagreb, Tenerife and Cove Neck: Revisiting the Assumptions Underlying ICAO’s Language Proficiency Program. 16th International Symposium on Aviation Psychology, 26-31.