Ask the pilot: Do the pilots always speak English on air?

What does the flight crew do during a flight? How do airplanes navigate in the dark? And, how do pilots and crew communicate? There's nobody better to answer such questions than the pilots themselves.

Jimisola Laursen        

Age: 41
Career: Joined SAS in 2014. Has flown CRJ900s and 737NGs. Started flying the ­Airbus A320 in 2016. A former track athlete and a 400m indoor Nordic Record Holder.
Home base: CPH
Flies: Airbus 319/320/321
Flight hours: 5 400

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Do pilots and air traffic controllers always speak ­English, or do you speak Danish when flying in Denmark, for example?


Hello Peter,

The use of English and standard aviation phraseology has been identified as an important contributor to increased flight safety. It allows everyone listening on the frequency to understand and hence create better situational awareness (where other aircraft are, whether there are thunderstorms or turbulence in the area, and so on).

Ideally, we should always speak English for these reasons, and at SAS we do so ­(excluding the initial greeting, such as “Rhein Radar, Guten Tag”). That said, a pilot’s­ ­license includes language proficiency – normally the languages are English plus your local language. My experience is that the use of local language ranges from very rare to quite common, depending on the country you’re operating in.

First Officer Jimisola Laursen

If you also have a question about aviation, send it to askthepilot@scandinaviantraveler.com and watch for the answer in an upcoming issue.

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