Where have you been? What have you seen?
By Ebbie 2003
Flew up to St Francois on Guadeloupe a couple of weeks ago to get my new whizzy 121.5/406 ELT installed.

St Francois is a great place - 2000ft runway, a holiday place 20 minute walk from the beach, marina, shops etc. and, maintenance, also five two place gyros, microlights, lots of airplanes - never seen anything quite like it in the Eastern Caribbean. I first went there earlier this year - it's an AOE - just email the police that you're coming and drop the Gen Decs in the box on the airport - no landing fees, no hassle - pilot heaven.

Anyway, two weeks ago - a few thousand feet overhead Marie Galante and the ATC from Pointe a Pitre asks "do you speak French" - I think he is offering some practice. I say no and he says well from 10th October (a few days hence) all non-towered airports on Guadeloupe will be French language only.

So when I land I mention it to the maintenance guy, who is shocked - this is an AOE says he, how will airplanes get here from the rest of the Eastern Caribbean - so far as maintenance is concerned the Eastern Caribbean is a bit of a desert. Sure enough though it is NOTAM'd.

I was not too concerned all I need to know are the calls for downwind, base, final etc, so listened to the radio all weekend - one airplane (a gyro) was very clear. The problem is not the calls but the chit chat (where for lunch, I can see my house etc etc) - microlight pilots, don't need English as they do not fly internationally.

So the maintenance is rather messed up - thought fly to Pointe a Pitre (a towered airport) pick up a French speaker and away we go - but thinking it has to be a pilot rather than a translator.

Other option maybe for maintenance guy to set up a tower when he knows an airplane is coming in, so then English.

No solution yet - the astonishing thing being that those on the airport were no consulted about the change; so not like the UK where changes are flagged way in advance.