Report: Greek Tragedy's Language Barrier
English was the only language shared by the German captain and Cypriot co-pilot of the Helios 737 that crashed Aug. 14 near Athens, and they had trouble understanding each other as they tried to interpret a confusing series of alarms in the cockpit during climbout, The International Herald Tribune reported last week. Citing unnamed sources close to the investigation, the Tribune also reported that a maintenance crew that worked on the aircraft the night before the flight left a pressurization controller rotary knob out of place, and the crew didn't notice it during preflight checks. Also, Boeing sent a notice to airlines saying it will revise its manuals to stress to crews what the various alarms mean and how to respond to them, the Tribune said. The same horn warns of a takeoff-configuration problem if it sounds on the ground and a cabin-altitude warning if it sounds in the air.
After the pilots lost consciousness in the cockpit, the autopilot flew the airplane to Athens where it entered a holding pattern, as it had been programmed, and flew there until it ran out of fuel and crashed. As the probe into the crash continues, Cypriot officials said they will fly to London to interview a British maintenance worker who left Cyprus after the crash. He feared for his safety if he returned to Cyprus for the inquiry, according to the Times of London. The official report is not expected for at least six months.