I was watching a video of an MD-11 landing in Quito, Ecuador

The crew is German (Lufthansa).

When they speak with ATC it's in English (obviously).
When they speak with each other it's in German (also obvious).
But, when they go through flight procedures, they speak in English.

Why do they not speak in German?
Is this required for the Cockpit Voice Recorder?

In this exchange the pilot is talking through part of the approach with her copilot, who then says


which means "I agree" in German, then immediately afterwards he says

Gear down

notice how both sound very similar. Further in the flight the copilot, calls

Flaps 50

why not

Flaps fünfzig

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Standardization, many airlines hire pilots with different nationalities. In the EU for example. Also type rating, in case you work in a different country than your country of origin. Think of it as an international work space. $\endgroup$
    – user14897
    Jun 27, 2016 at 21:50

1 Answer 1


This is common in many international airlines.

Lufthansa Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) dictates that all flight procedural communication (checklists, standard callouts, etc.) are done in English.

The only "German" I've seen on Lufthansa's checklists is "handy .... off" in the pre-startup checklist (German English for "mobile phone .... off").

  • $\begingroup$ ymb1's comment provides a good reason for this SOP but it would also be good to address that here. $\endgroup$
    – fooot
    Jun 27, 2016 at 22:21
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ From Air India B777 SOP: "Use standard phraseology at all times. All procedural communication within and from the cockpit will be in a common language ‘English’." $\endgroup$
    – mins
    Jun 28, 2016 at 5:21
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I suspect that the checklists etc. are still written in English, and not having to mentally translate from the English checklist to the German statement to the English checklist, even for someone who is fluent in both languages, may save precious moments even at times of low stress, let alone in a high-stress situation. Consistency! $\endgroup$
    – user
    Jun 28, 2016 at 11:28
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Mins India is potentially a special case, however - English is the common tongue in India, in many business circumstances $\endgroup$
    – Jon Story
    Sep 1, 2016 at 14:19

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