There’s an interesting story out of Atlanta regarding an air traffic controller that jokingly told a Delta 777 to go around. The flight was coming out of Detroit, and on approach (about 1,000 feet in the air) the pilot was told to go around, and then immediately told that it was just a joke.
Via CBS 46 Atlanta:
The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating a potentially dangerous prank an air-traffic controller played on a pilot.
Delta Flight 630, loaded with passengers from Japan, was about to land at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport on Wednesday afternoon when an unnamed controller told the pilot not to.
The controller immediately said he was just joking, but the pilot had already aborted his landing and could not resume the touchdown.
Here’s the conversation between the controller and pilot:
Controller: “Delta 630, go around.”
Controller: “I’m kidding, Delta 630. After you land, I’ve got no one behind you. Expect to exit right.”
Controller: “Delta 630, you’re cleared to land on 27L.”
Pilot: “You sent us around. Delta 630 is on the go.”
So lets be clear about a couple of things. If the controller was in fact making a joke, he’s just a moron. Partly because you don’t joke when you have planes with hundreds of people in the air (especially during a critical stage of flight), and partly because it simply isn’t funny.
Now, I haven’t seen this scenario mentioned, but maybe the controller genuinely thought a go around was necessary for some reason, and quickly corrected himself when he realized he was wrong, and tried to pass it off as a joke.
The controller either made an honest mistake or is an idiot, and it should be investigated either way. Though more idiotic, in my opinion, is the media coverage of this.
Here’s CBS 46’s coverage of the incident:
To CBS 46:
- Your audio from the control tower isn’t really “exclusive audio.” It’s publicly available.
- “A source tells us this is as bad as an air traffic controller falling asleep on the job.” I think you need a new source. What this controller did was stupid but not dangerous. An air traffic controller falling asleep is dangerous.
- The plane wasn’t “loaded with passengers from Japan,” when the flight was coming from Detroit (though the flight number originated in Nagoya).
- “A source tells CBS 46 this could be a very dangerous prank.” Stupid prank? Yes. Waste of time? Yes. Dangerous? There’s absolutely nothing dangerous about a go around. That’s the whole point of a go around, to avoid any danger…
- Interviewing random people in Atlanta Airport and asking them their thoughts on this? Are you for real? “Hearing about this prank makes him wonder if he’s safe in the skies.”
And to the air traffic controller, why don’t you leave ATC humor to Air China 981…
Again, I’m not in any way trying to shift blame from the controller. If it was in fact a joke, that was really dumb/not funny. But ultimately the biggest “consequence” here is that it wasted ~15 minutes of everyone’s time, and cost Delta extra in fuel and crew costs. This should be investigated and the controller should be reprimanded if it was a joke (in my opinion), but no one’s life was at stake here.
Am I off base?