An ANSP at a busy international airport experienced recently successive similar incidents involving commercial transport aircraft. The aircraft on final approach acknowledged, but did not action, instructions to go around passed due to catching up the traffic in front. Repetitions of instructions were necessary before the required go around commenced. Pilots’ acknowledgements to the initial go around instructions were neither given in the prescribed format, nor in any way which could provide assurance that they had been understood.
Although the national language at the place of incidents’ occurrence is not English, all ATC communications, including those with operators based at the airport concerned, are conducted in English Language. The incident aircraft flight crews were also not native English-speakers and their native languages belong to a distinctly different language grouping to that of the native language spoken at the incident location. As a result, the English language accents of the two parties in each incident were understandably different.
Analysis of the circumstances in the recorded incidents suggests that the inclusion of plain language explanations of the reason for instructing a go around, which in each case immediately preceded (without a break) the actual instruction, may have led to the flight crews failing to appreciate the content of the transmission even though they understood that it had been for them. Their non-specific acknowledgements of the initial go around instructions were taken as ‘message understood’ by ATC whereas it appears that the initial messages had not been understood.
Whilst actual safety standards were not impaired during these incidents, the potential for breach in separation is clear.
In the EUROCONTROL Voluntary ATM Incident Reporting (EVAIR) database go around occurrences make 6% of the overall occurrences reported for the period 2007 - 2008.
ICAO Provision in PANS-ATM (Doc 4444)
12.3.4. Phraseologies for use on and in the vicinity of the aerodrome
188.8.131.52 Missed Approach
a) GO AROUND;
b) GOING AROUND (pilot transmission).
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