This post is intended for aviation geeks, since I imagine most others would have no clue what’s going on.
If you ever listen to air traffic control for fun (who doesn’t?!), you’ve probably noticed that controllers in the NY area can get a bit feisty. I can’t really blame them, since they have some high-pressure jobs. Sometimes I can’t blame them for losing their cool, like this audio click between a JFK ground controller and Air China 981:
While not to that level, @AirlineFlyer noted an interesting situation that arose between an Aer Lingus pilot and a JFK controller on Sunday evening. EI104 was an A330 departing from New York to Dublin.
The weather in New York wasn’t great. After takeoff the Aer Lingus plane was instructed to turn left, though the pilot said he couldn’t do that because of a cell of weather, and would need to maintain the runway heading for another 15 miles.
In an irritated tone, the air traffic controller responds that the weather is “light,” and that he has six categories of weather, and the heading he gave the pilot was through the lightest category, and that he has had no adverse ride reports.
At that point the air traffic controller puts him in a holding pattern, and it seems to me like the pilot feels like he’s intentionally not being given the most direct routing. As the controller gets ready to hand over the pilot to another controller at New York Departure, the following conversation happens:
Pilot: “Before I go, we didn’t create any situation we flew the aircraft in a safe manner, and my boss will be in contact with your boss. Good day.”
Air traffic controller:”Understood, I just… I do understand and appreciate that, but again, you know, there’s not much… you’re on the runway and you’ve taken a clearance, and accepted a departure clearance and you’re seeing that weather straight ahead, on a runway, and everybody off that airport is turning left, I mean there’s not too many options here in New York.”
Pilot: “It’s not my first day in New York, and it’s not my first day in an aircraft. I did what I do to do. Good day.”
Here’s the full audio along with the flight path, if you’d like to hear it:
What makes this interesting is that clearly there’s some tension, though I’m not sure either party is necessarily in the wrong here:
- The pilot’s first job is to fly the aircraft safely, and if s/he doesn’t feel comfortable with the instructions given by air traffic control, they need to be given an alternative. You can’t hold that against the pilot, even if he was perhaps being cautious.
- The air traffic controller is really busy, and New York airspace is also very congested, so options are limited in terms of routes they can give pilots. It’s not surprising that the air traffic controller was annoyed, because from his perspective this was an instruction that every other pilot was okay with, except the Aer Lingus pilot.
So the way I view it, it was an interesting back-and-forth. I’m not sure the “my boss will talk to your boss” conversation at the end was really necessary, since it didn’t seem like anything that bad happened.
What do you make of this exchange?