David Lauman

Blue ice or blue eyes?

In Funny stories on May 2, 2012 at 8:47 AM

Blue ice or blue eyes? Chaos over interpreter mishap

Reported to David L Lauman by Ralph Salgado

On a business trip to Little Rock, Arkansas, I had the opportunity to meet Ralph Salgado, an aviation industry expert, who passed along the following story about an interpreter’s blooper:

Several years ago I was part of a team hired to provide technical training on B737 aircraft maintenance to the employees of an airline in Guanzhou, China over a period of several days. One day, our regular Cantonese technical interpreter called in sick, forcing us to scramble for a replacement. We finally came up with Mari, a diplomatic interpreter from the US consulate. I figured this would work, and it actually did for several hours.

That particular day I had the unfortunate task of instructing the class on servicing on the B737’s lavatories and proper procedure for removing the “blue juice” you see swirling around in there when your hit the flush button. Believe it or not, if the forward lavatory is not properly serviced by ground personnel, and any “blue juice” leaks are left, the consequences are far more serious than a few blue streaks down the side of the plane. At 35,000 feet, the outside air temperature is around -40°F, at which a blue ice ball the size of a football will form. Before long, that ball will break loose, hurtle down the side of the plane at 500 MPH and get sucked into an engine inlet, causing a complete engine failure (which has actually happened). It can also cause severe damage to the wing leading edge or tail structure. So we are very careful to emphasize the importance of properly servicing the forward lavatory in training courses on the B737.

Now back to the classroom in Guanzhou and Mari, my interpreter from the consulate. I tell the class:

“If you don’t want blue ice, you have to make sure you properly service the forward lavatory.”

Mari dutifully interprets my aviation vernacular and to my utter surprise, the class suddenly erupts into mayhem. People were standing up, waving their arms, pointing fingers at each other, themselves, at Mari, and me. There was a rather loud and infuriated debate going on in front of me of which I had no clue about nor did I want to enter into either. I turn to Mari:

“Mari, what the heck did you just say to them?”

“I told them just what you said: If you don’t have blue eyes, you cannot properly service the forward lavatory.”

Ralph Salgado is the President of Ralph Salgado Associates, LC. Ralph Salgado Associates of Hudson, Florida provides technical consulting services to the commercial aircraft industry as well as expert witness services for cases involving aviation equipment. Ralph may be contacted at ralph.salgado@verizon.net or at 813-494-1000

Don’t let the language barrier get in the way of effective spoken communication with Spanish speakers here in the USA or on the opposite side of the globe.  You are invited to visit 20/20 Translations and contact David Lauman at david(at)2020translations.com for further inquiries.

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