Oy: You Have To Hear This Audio Between ATC & EVA Air Pilots

Filed Under: EVA Air

Earlier I wrote about an incident that occurred Friday morning after an EVA Air 777 bound for Taipei took off from Los Angeles. There was a serious miscommunication between the pilots and air traffic control, to the point that the 777 allegedly only cleared a mountain by about 500 feet. On top of that, visibility was limited and it was nighttime.

While we’ve heard certain snippets of the ATC audio, there’s now a full recording of the communication between the pilots and controller, along with a map of where the plane was flying. The level of miscommunication here is alarming.

To summarize the sequence of events:

  • After takeoff the pilots and ATC are in agreement that the plane should be flying at a heading of 090
  • Part of the audio is cut out (which may be part of the issue), but ATC advises the pilots to climb to 7,000 feet, and the pilots read that back as turning left heading 180 (which would translate to a 270 degree left turn rather than a 90 degree right turn) and climbing to 7,000 feet; ATC doesn’t correct the pilots when they read that back (and the whole point of reading back is to confirm that they understood the instructions correctly)
  • Moments later ATC notices that the pilots are turning left rather than right, and tells them to expedite the right turn to 180, which the pilots read back correctly

So up until this point there’s clearly some miscommunication, though this is where ATC starts making the situation worse:

  • ATC tells the nearby Air Canada plane to stop their climb, then tells them to expedite their climb
  • ATC tells the EVA pilots to maintain an altitude of 5,000 feet rather than climbing, when they’re heading straight for a mountain that has an elevation of 5,500 feet
  • ATC tells the EVA pilots to turn left heading 270, which they confirm
  • ATC asks the pilots what they’re doing, and says “turn southbound now”; the problem is that the pilots are flying north, and they’re not sure if they should turn left or right in order to fly south, and you can hear their confusion, as they say “left… right…”
  • The pilots specifically ask the controller to confirm the heading, and the controller once again says “turn southbound” (which is not a “heading” in ATC lingo)
  • ATC mixes up words even further and says “I see you going southbound, northbound, turn south now”
  • The EVA pilot is heard asking ATC if they should make a left turn, and there’s no response, other than saying to “turn south now”
  • EVA pilots finally respond that they’ll turn right to heading 180, and then things slowly get back on track

Having now heard the audio while also watching the flight’s track, all I can think is what a freaking mess this was. It seems odd that the EVA pilots thought they should turn left to fly south (which was a 270 degree turn rather than 90 degree turn), but at the same time that’s exactly what they read back.

The subsequent miscommunication seems to be somewhat of a language barrier, and that seems to largely have to do with ATC using non-standard terminology. The controller keeps telling the pilots to turn “southbound,” rather than giving an actual heading, as she should have. It’s especially confusing since the pilots were flying northbound, and you can hear them asking for clarification as to whether they should turn left or right.

When I’ve listened to air traffic controllers in emergencies much more serious than this, I’ve always been impressed by how calm and clear the controllers were. In this case I can’t help but feel like the controller was only making the situation worse.

Again, thank goodness this ended okay, and I’ll be curious to see what comes of the investigation (though I think listening to the audio answers a lot of questions people may have had).

What do you make of this situation — are the pilots, controller, or both, at fault?

  1. This ATC controller needs to be prosecuted. Also, is it against the law in California to check if exam papers are indeed legitimate? Do we know if they accept ATC training from countries with, uh, other standards than ours?

  2. Could be totally incorrect about this, but I wonder if the planes taking of Eastbound instead of the usual Westbound out of LAX could be a culprit here, especially if the controller and/or the pilots were fairly new to LAX (or new overall). There was also weather that EVA was flying through, so perhaps the ability of making a visual judgement to go “southbound” by the pilots could have been impeded as well.

    Again I haven’t really been too far in the weeds on this one, but taking off Eastbound out of LAX is extremely rare – even during overnights while planes come in using the rare ocean approach due to noise restrictions, they still take off Westbound over the ocean per usual.

  3. As a recently retired Controller, I am appalled at the catalogue of errors, breathtaking lapses in judgement and total disregard for standard phraseology on the part of the Controller.

  4. Overall sounded like pretty terrible ATC. Wouldn’t EVA have gotten terrain alarms if they were too close to the mountains?

  5. @Kris. I was thinking the same thing – the EVA pilots didn’t seem to have an idea they were potentially flying into a mountain?!! Even with poor visibility, I would hope pilots know what’s ahead of them. Scary!

    Agree with everyone – the controller made a mistake and then seemed to panic (certainly a very bad weakness for someone with that job) and then almost seemed to blame the pilots for not following her “directions”.

    Since I routinely fly in this controller’s airspace and live under the pattern, I would feel a lot safer if she found another career field.

  6. The passengers are clearly at fault. Someone should have yelled “iceberg straight ahead”

    Seriously though, the pilots were wrong at the end of the day. They are the ones that took off and wanted to make the wrong turn. The ATC did not properly correct the situation but she’s not the one that caused this situation. Hard to blame the ATC for trying to fix the situation that she hadn’t caused in the first place. I would like to know what occurred in the cockpit pre departure. Were the pilots focused ? What were they discussing ? How much sleep did they have ? What were their whereabouts in the last 48 hours ?

  7. I’m a complete amateur here. However, in this case ATC lost situational awareness with EVA heavy and should be terminated.

    “Stop your Climb” 3 times when EVA aircraft heading straight for San Gabriels (including 6600 ft.+ peak elevation)
    “Maintain 5K feet” 2 times
    “Change heading” instructions issued without sufficient lead time, when gaining altitude of prime importance rather than changing heading (no air traffic whatsoever over San Gabriels)
    “Climb to 6K feet (when heading directly toward 6600 ft peak)
    “Climb to 7K feet) (is <400 feet enough clearance- not sure how precise the altimeters are)

    Mt. San Antonio (15 miles to the east) is over 10K ft, so the heading left vs right "southbound" turn is crucial.

    I did not pick up on language barrier coming into play. However, wouldn't pilots need to know terrain features acutely? Clearly did know the dangers of heading and altitude in this case.

  8. From an experienced military aviator with whom I shared this post:

    “shouldn’t happen, obviously

    pilots are supposed to know minimums for various portions of the terminal control area, and you would like to think they have some idea where they are at all times. old pilots probably do.

    aircraft are typically equipped with terrain avoidance systems- but are only good if functioning and properly loaded with data

    LA ATC probably not too used to working with inclement wx. doesn’t happen very often in SOCAL.

    EVERYBODY got complacent.. seems like air traffic control looks better than the pilots.

    very easy to get complacent in modern aviation. systems work reliably. pilots rarely actually fly the aircraft, just monitor the autopilot performance.
    this has definitely happened in the past. usually in South America or Asia but nasty crash in San Francisco during my adult lifetime where they plowed into a mountain at full throttle.”

  9. “The controller keeps telling the pilots to turn “southbound,” rather than giving an actual heading, as she should have.”

    This is fundamentally incorrect. You have no idea what the full picture was from the audio. The aircraft may very well have been below the Minimum Vectoring Altitude for that block of airspace and a blanket instruction is all that controller may have been able to legally issue. It is not even clear which sector the aircraft was in.

    Additionally, you do not need to issue the left/right qualifier, as “the pilot is expected to turn in the shorter direction to the heading unless otherwise instructed by ATC.” (FAA JO 7110.65)

    ATC is not something that is easily simplified. For those wishing to learn something:
    – The general rules can be found at https://www.faa.gov/documentlibrary/media/order/atc.pdf.
    – Specific Socal TRACON procedures at http://ivaous.org/fdr/SOPs/ZLA/SCT_SOP.pdf (source is not real, but the document is).

  10. I just watched the video again and the ATC clearly did her job. This is a terrible situation that the EVA pilots got themselves into. On top of that they have serious listening problems and should be investigated .

  11. So sad but true- you can’t trust the mainstream media/fake news to honestly report on nearly anything. I appreciate this blog’s commitment to the facts.

  12. I’m an IFR rated pilot and instructions to turn the long way around (in other words, from east to south by turning left) aren’t common, but they do happen – seems to be a frequent procedure around PHX, often for terrain/traffic clearance.

  13. It seemed like the pilots did not know what she meant by “southbound.” In all seriousness, does that term translate? I am saying this because most non-native speakers translate into their native language in their head; thus, if the term was not translatable, then confusion could occur.

    Also, I wonder if lag in the radar returns (primary or not) could have made the controller think that they had not turned south yet; thus, reissuing the instructions and possibly making the pilots second guess the maneuver that they were doing. If you make a course correction and then the controller reissues their request, most people would question what they were currently doing even if it was correct.

  14. @JustinH

    Clearly you don’t appreciate the meaning of “control” in Air Traffic Controller.

    She allowed an aircraft under her control to fly in the wrong direction, uncorrected for an unacceptable period of time before trying to remedy it with incorrect phraseology, a desperately flawed plan of stopping Eva’s climb when it was the aircraft nearest to high ground and then not focussing on ensuring the situation was resolved and not deteriorating.

    Still, it’s always easier for the uninformed to blame the foreigner flying the aircraft, who ATC had turned off the SID and who wasting vectored by Air Traffic CONTROL, I guess…

  15. @Alex: “The aircraft may very well have been below the Minimum Vectoring Altitude for that block of airspace ”

    I’m no expert, but the controller DID instruct the aircraft with vectors initially. The problem is *later*, when the aircraft didn’t follow the instructions she had given. At that point she repeats “southbound” several times, which obviously confused the pilots.

  16. Not that I would have handled it the same way as this controller, but we don’t really have any information to judge her on other than her non-standard phraseology (which she will probably get dinged for).

    We don’t know the Minimum Safe Altitude, the Minimum Obstruction Clearance Altitude (if the aircraft was flying a DP with a MOCA), the Minimum Vectoring Altitude for the sector, conflicting traffic, radar coverage in that area, etc. The controller never issued a Low Altitude Alert but we don’t know the actual altitude or the radar identification status given the short period of time/number of sweeps. So we don’t know what the picture at the time was in the slightest.

    It appears the aircraft was flying the Ventura 7 departure, San Marcus transition, but the aircraft was ‘taken off’ of the DP with the assigned heading.

  17. @Mark Watch the video again. Did they crash ? At the end of the day the ATC got the job done . She alerted the pilots of their situation and they didn’t listen after being told repeatedly to turn south. If the EVA pilots did not understand their situation then they don’t belong in the air. I would like to know what the pilots were discussing on the ground pre departure and what they did and who they were the days leading up to this flight.

    It has nothing to do with being uninformed or blaming foreigners. If this incident involved a US carrier the pilots would still be to blame.

  18. @snic, the MVA changes based on the terrain in a given block of airspace, and there may be numerous blocks with different MVAs within a single sector, and sectors may be combined – especially in the terminal environment. So, as the aircraft got closer and closer to the mountain range, the MVA would have become higher and higher.

    Look at pages 547-631 for some examples of sector airspace (sans MVA), http://ivaous.org/fdr/SOPs/ZLA/SCT_SOP.pdf. Also, page 237 has some obstacle clearance info.

  19. I don’t understand why so many of you instantly try to blame only the ATC. I mean, as a pilot, I would say she could have definitely done her job better, but she reacted very quickly to the first mistake of the EVA pilots, and the EVA pilots were the ones that took the wrong actions. The ATC several times instructed a heading to the EVA crew, which they even confirmed, but just ignored. Once she started saying turn southbound, the EVA pilots seemed confused or overwhelmed. Maybe they totally lost their situational awareness. They should know as part of the departure briefing and experience, that there are very high mountains to the N and NE of LAX.

  20. Lucky – I think you need headline emphasis 101 retraining. This is not an “Oy” event – this is life-threatening. Unlike other event headlines you use, which usually involve the words “SHOCKING” etc, which you usually reserve for mundane events that annoy people with your use of over-exaggeration. Not hating, just saying …

  21. @Justin H

    Can’t agree..

    She lost the plot and lost control of her airspace and of the aircraft under her control; so much so, she failed to maintain her use of standard phraseology, which the Eva crew would most probably have responded to more expeditiously. She stopped off the aircraft in the climb which was closest to approaching terrain and failed to correct a developing scenario.

    Had she used standard phraseology to issue Eva with an appropriate heading and altitude and, if necessary, avoiding action, we would not be discussing this now.

    Instead, she failed in her duties and she has only herself to blame for that in my professional opinion.

  22. There are literally people in this thread who’d rather 200+ pax die in a plane crash than making sure we keep language standards up in air traffic control.

    Her ghetto language is not just inappropriate, it’s life-threateningly dangerous.

    That’s objective fact. But I guess you people are used to the fake news you get from CNN and FOX, so facts might be lost on you.

  23. @Alex It’s worthing noting that the aircraft wasn’t necessarily taking off of the departure procedure. The VTU7 departure is a hybrid departure, which means there are radar vectors involved. When you depart LAX on the VTU7 departure, you are absolutely going to get radar vectors to some point on your assigned route. Getting radar vectors is part of the departure.

  24. This was a tough call. I’m a Commercial/IFR pilot as well and agree the phraseology was poor BUT English is the primary language in the world of aviation and North/South/East/West should be clearly understood. Controller messed up here.. but COME ON pilots! They were heading the wrong way for a long time.

    All turns are to be the shortest turn unless specifically stated otherwise by ATC. Pilots are trained to be able to very quickly (as in instantly) know which way to turn. Heading 090 its the most basic common maneuver! RIGHT TURN will get you to 180 quickest. Ummm.. all you do is spin the Auto pilot dial to 180 and the plane turns. By 5000 ft if they were in IFR, Auto pilot should have been active by then to take workload off the pilots, but each airline may have different Standard Operating Procedures.

    Pilot in Common is 100% in charge of Clearance from other aircraft in VFR conditions, ATC 100% in IFR conditions. Terrain – Pilot in Common is always 100% accountable. If ATC told me to fly into a mountain , I wouldn’t do it!

    Not a great controller but if the plane would have hit the mountain, that’s on the Captain.

  25. Listening to the audio it’s clear that there was confusion on both sides of the mic. ATC should never have let them continue, at that low altitude, directly toward the mts. Pilots, if they had any confusion, should have vigorously attempted to get correct direction from ATC. ATC clearly needs to be acquainted with local surroundings…

  26. @Nick Absolutely, that’s a great point. I don’t know/remember if she issued the vector before or after the RZS transition though…

  27. The controller issued “turn right heading 180” first as the aircraft continued northbound. The controller issued an “expedite right turn” after that. Then again the controller issued a “turn right heading 180” for a second tie. The pilot read back all three of those instructions.

    After the controller climbed the Air Canada aircraft up to 12,000, she issued a left turn heading 270 to EVA015. My guess is that was the easiest way away from the mountain considering groundspeed and required turn radius.

    In addition, the controller instructed EVA015 to turn southbound, and the pilot did read back “southbound.” Even if the standard phraseology was not necessarily used, the pilot read back both “right turn heading 180” instructions and the “southbound” instruction.

    Regarding phraseology, air traffic controllers may be permitted to use any verbiage necessary to get the point across at their discretion if standard phraseology isn’t effective for the situation. So, instructions to turn southbound, in my opinion, seem simpler. Less to process. Left or right didn’t matter. All that was important at that moment was getting the aircraft away from the mountain as the Air Canada flight was well separated by altitude.

    It’s important to note in all of this, though, that what we see is only part of the picture. What the controller saw on the radar scope is much more definitive than FlightRadar24 and FlightAware. There may have been other aircraft not seen on FlightRadar and FlightAware and I imagine the frequency of updates is higher on a radar scope than is on FlightRadar. The controller may have seen turns that never appeared on FlightRadar. Also, we have no insight on the flight deck. Who knows what alarms or activity may have been compounding the situation for the pilots.

  28. @Alex The vectors come after departure until you are cleared direct VTU. Once instructed to proceed direct VTU, then you go to VTU, then RZS and then follow the rest of your route.

  29. Some intelligent remarks here and there. But ultimately Alex and Nick have it right. Nobody here has the full picture. Even as an ATCS you dont know all the semantics of what happened until the ATO safety report comes out.

    For those of you suggesting she be terminated, it just goes further to show how little you know about this system. Even if it’s on her to fix the pilot’s screw-up, she’s not going to be fired for being unsuccessful at it (unless this is habitual or purposefully negligent). Skill enhancement training is the most likely outcome for the controller.

    As Wes stated regarding trust in mainstream media.. you just cant count on them to be honest. In part because they are gunning for ratings, but moreso because they just have no clue. They’re asking civilians about “normal” aircraft activity in the area. But as Ive learned from countless phone calls from concerned citizens: in general, they don’t have the faintest idea of what is normal.

    “*****bound” is a term Ive used plenty of times after the pilot does something stupid and is flying in the wrong direction. Sometimes they need it in laymans terms. But usually I start with a heading, and I also usually deal with fluent english speaking pilots (or at least fluent english speaking instructor onboard).
    But for those suggesting “southbound” compounded the problem, I’d be questioning how a pilot could get through 1000s of hours of flight training without hearing and learning cardinal directions in english. Pilots dont plop into triple 7 IFR commercial flights without a ton of VFR GA/Military flying beforehand.

  30. @Donna – There was poor visibility because this was a nighttime flight (scheduled 1130PM departure) . CX 881 (also departing during the ATC feed) departs LAX around midnight.

  31. I love how you can pick out all the right wingers with their statements of “can’t trust the media…” Please tell me why the media would deliberately skew a report like this. Seriously, you guys are getting ridiculous.

  32. Well, I’m not suggesting they would “deliberately skew a report like this”. (Though in a quest for ratings, I wouldn’t be too surprised) But the media has no clue how ATC operates, and every report I’ve ever heard is riddled with errors. For one, many reporters think the towers operate everything, and I’ve heard media describe incidents as “the tower” told a plane to do something, when in fact it was a radar/en-route facility. I’ve also read a media report describing a departure clearance as a takeoff clearance.
    Fact is, they have no idea. AND PROOF IN THIS INSTANCE:

    Very clearly the controller tells the EVA left heading 270. (still incorrect, but not what is being reported)

    Meanwhile the LA times reports that Ian Gregor stated “instructed to turn left to a 180-degree heading”. Whether this is Ian mistaken or the times accidentally or purposefully skewing what he said, that is NOT what she said, and the media is not doing their homework by actually listening to the audio.

    Hence, don’t trust the media when it comes to this. They are clueless and/or liars.
    You, sir, are ridiculous.

    P.S- not a right winger.

  33. To all of those who feel personally offended we demand some standards be upheld, just give us a choice.

    I would personally prefer, as a customer of LAX, that this ATC does not work on my flights. Let’s give people the option to choose, too. Put “This flight may be using affirmative action ATC” next to the booking if that’s the case.

  34. As a former military pilot of 12 years, I would tend to lay most of the blame at the feet of the pilots while acknowledging that the departure controller did not do the greatest job diffusing the situation.

    If a pilot is ever asked to turn the long way to a heading, he or she needs to be doubly sure that is right because it is not very common (but not unheard of). Usually ATC would emphasize such an instruction by saying something like “EVA 015, left turn to heading 180, repeat, a non-standard LEFT HAND turn to 180.” If the radio broke up and the pilot was unclear, just reading it back casually and assuming that you would have been corrected if the long turn to South is wrong is a poor technique. The read back is there for a reason, but when doing strange things you need to be more positive. That is the kind of mistake I used to see from junior pilots, but I think it is inexcusable from a team of commercial pilots.

    The lack of terrain awareness also seems to indicate that the EVA pilots didn’t know where they were… which is also troubling. I can honestly say that I had a time early in my flying career where I lost awareness and ended up getting uncomfortably close to the terrain. I made that mistake flying in a single seat jet as a young kid, but I would expect better from a team of airline pilots.

  35. Honestly, up until now I hadn’t listened to the audio… and I was still more insightful than half the comments above.
    Yes, she screwed up the initial heading, stating left heading 270 instead of right heading 180 (presuming that was the intended instruction)— but from then on, this is on the pilots.
    This controller does not sound ghetto like many others suggest. She doesn’t even sound flustered and un-composed, she sounds a bit agitated (big difference). The pilot ACKNOWLEDGES the southbound instruction. No questioning it, no nada. Then he doesn’t do it. That’s on him.
    Yes, she contributed to the problem with the incorrect heading. But the notion she needs to be fired over this… ludicrous.

  36. >But the notion she needs to be fired over this… ludicrous.

    Good. *You* fly in her airspace, then.

    Let the rest of us choose not to purchase her ‘services’ if we’re not comfortable with an ATC using language I wouldn’t allow at the dinner table. And not comfortable with an ATC who sends 200+ pax straight into a mountain.

    You do realize she won’t see your whiteknighting, right? We can talk about this near-tragedy in straight terms here.

  37. I’m not the biggest fan of FAA hiring standards, but this:
    “I would personally prefer, as a customer of LAX, that this ATC does not work on my flights. Let’s give people the option to choose, too. Put “This flight may be using affirmative action ATC” next to the booking if that’s the case.”
    That’s pathetic. Ignorant not only because of race, but because you clearly are among the masses that are clueless about how ATC works. (controllers are not assigned flights, and one controller may take over your flight midway through a section of airspace if the controller working your aircraft is up for a break)
    If you followed ATO safety briefings and all the incidents every day across the country and incorrect headings like this make you pee your pants and want another controller to be working your aircraft… well, we would have no ATC system. Because no humans—none of them– are perfect. And there is no computer system that can take over our job yet.

  38. “Good. *You* fly in her airspace, then.”
    I will, without a second hesitation.
    And EVEN the incorrect instruction to turn left to 270 would NOT have sent the aircraft into those mountains had the pilot listened.
    No “whiteknighting” on her behalf. Just logic and knowledge being an ATCS myself.

  39. >And EVEN the incorrect instruction to turn left to 270 would NOT have sent the aircraft into those mountains had the pilot listened.

    To what? To her command to stop climbing? The first, second or third time? She literally casually told random flights to stop climbing.

    Do any of you understand the gravity of clearing a mountaintop by a few hundred feet?

  40. @William Y. That is some appalling racism there. If you didn’t hear an African American sounding voice, you wouldn’t be screaming “affirmative action” under the cloak of relative anonymity, then accusing us of “white knighting” to bury your appalling racism. I’m sure the FAA will consider your affirmative action warning to protect white people everywhere from black people.

  41. The ATC needed to use standard phraseology and should have used some plain English like turn right heading 180 immediately. You are going to hit a mountain! She was in way over her head and did a terrible job fixing the problem. But I do get her frustration. Eva was not following her instructions. Eva was also in over their heads from the first wrong turn.

    You always turn the shortest way unless told otherwise. And then Eva did not seem to respond to instructions. The controller did not monitor closely for compliance. After the first wrong turn she should have been very specific and all over the guy until he was squared away.

    I’m guessing she said to turn south because she didn’t know where in a turn he was and was afraid if she gave a heading he would stop his turn and turn the other direction. If she was really concerned she should have said: Eva whatever direction you are turning keep doing it. Expedite your turn to heading 180. I need you going south. It officially should have been: Low altitude alert! Eva climb immediately. The minimum altitude in your area is x

  42. Nobody brought race up until the people concerned with calling people racists did.

    Newsflash: keep doing that if you want to repeat Nov 8. again and again. Maybe if you people started worrying about the world you live in and not the labels you can put on people we could elect an actual qualified President like Mrs. Clinton the next time. Thank you. Now snap out of it.

    White knighting has nothing to do with race, but I guess it’s fitting people who think the tape in question is totally fine don’t care about language at all.

  43. How did affirmative action even get into this conversation? For one, affirmative action merely implies that employers, the Federal Government included, should try to have a diverse workforce that represents our society. Get this! Affirmative action also relates to military veterans in the same way that it relates to other minority groups. Are some of you implying that this controller was a military veteran; therefore, could not be qualified for the job? I didn’t’ think so!

    Will I agree, that based on my understanding as a pilot and avgeek, that a lot of the blame could fall onto the controller, I did not immediately go to her race as being the reason. I did go to language barrier being a possible cause. Language barrier does not imply racism!

  44. @William Y
    What about the language used reminded you of a ghetto? And what kind of ghetto are you even referring to? I feel that your statement js classist and based on some assumed stereotype. Lets be real for just a sec now hon, and see if any stereotypes apply to this situation. Asian pilots? Imma stereotypically say that they have awful CRM & that their screw up is a result of that. Bye now

    Excellent points, departing to the east is super rare

    Good questions to look into re: pre-departure prep & pilots

    Nope, sorry buddy

    Absolutely this 100%

  45. The responsibilities and culpability will ultimately be sorted out. But given how close the flight was to the mountain ridge, I think we should all be glad that we are not discussing a tragic CFIT incident involving a 777 today on this forum.

  46. Andddd… we’re back to politics.

    “To what? To her command to stop climbing? The first, second or third time? She literally casually told random flights to stop climbing.”

    Um, had he taken the incorrect heading of 270, he would not be flying approx 360 towards those mountains. Had he flown southbound like he said he was going to, he would not be flying towards those mountains.

    Ive been in your shoes, so desperate to blame other ethnicities for anything I could, that I’d ignore facts and reality. But the reality is that there are a ton of incidents all the time at the fault of controllers and pilots: young, old, black and white alike.

    People died in part due to a white male controller error in NYC contributing to a MAC. That bears a lot more weight than this. He still kept his job.

    “White knighting has nothing to do with race, but I guess it’s fitting people who think the tape in question is totally fine don’t care about language at all.”

    No, but what you said prior: “Let’s give people the option to choose, too. Put “This flight may be using affirmative action ATC” next to the booking if that’s the case.”
    That has a lot to do with race (unless you’re referring to her gender… sexist then and maybe not racist)

    But such a statement does fit people who ignore facts.

    Just to reiterate, as an actual air traffic controller, I can tell you with CERTAINTY that her control instruction to fly southbound was not a problem with her language. She screwed up intially with the instruction to turn left heading 270, and the problem was compounded by pilot actions.

    So the end of story is that you are incorrect, about basically everything you’ve written on the topic of Air Traffic Control. As far as your political statement, I have no comment.

  47. Immediately after initial mistake, she should have asked for help from supervisor, always the best option. Trying to resolve under pressure was the slippery slope. Crew would have got terrain warning and pulled up, but that is pushing luck

  48. Used to fly in & out KLAX between 1995-2010 on a b744 EVA and China Airlines….only once did a take off on 07L…I have never heard instructions like this one…unbelievable….I always thought the guys in LAX (socal app) are one of the best
    On the pilots…clearly they were not aware of the high ground to the East…this is not right….unfamiliarity with the airport combine with jet lag is a bad combination….

  49. Gah, so the audio I heard via NBC LA was also cut off… WTH. So after all that, reading two different news sources I still can’t get the full picture.
    Listening to audio on here… for whatever reason the audio was cut at the beginning. According to Ian Gregor, she instructed them to turn left to 180. Trusting that (trust is all I can give since that part is not audible), that’s still about the only real mistake she made. Rest of it was on the pilots.
    Language you wouldn’t allow at the dinner table???
    Really William, what does that even mean? There is no foul language in any of this audio.
    Further, she did not tell random planes to stop their climb. She attempted to vertically seperate ACA and EVA. Seriously, you just are spouting out crap that is completely made up.

  50. I found it interesting that William wants to know who is working atc when he flies! William, next time you need to travel, buy your ticket from Greyhound!
    Honestly, I wouldn’t want to fly in a plane operated by a company who thought these pilots were capable! That to me is the larger issue!
    Nothing like rattling the cages and find out what all the armchair quarterbacks are convinced what the problem really was! Nice work Ben! Mission accomplished!

  51. I watched the video 3 times and it became more terrifying each time. I found the other thread’s comments very interesting, especially the last one by a guy who said he’s a former ATC. And once again I see some butt hurt snowflakes who have to turn this into a political issue. William Y, I think you meant to write pre-convicted criminal. You’re welcome for the correction.

  52. This ATCS doesn’t bug me in the least, I’d fly through her airspace in a heartbeat. Biggest problem is the flight crew who acknowledged the instructions and then didn’t comply. That’s frustrating as hell, because there’s no way to know who is taking a few seconds to respond to your instruction, and who is ignoring it.

  53. @Joe

    You’d be surprised. While your statement is generally true about a US-based carrier, foreign ones are all over the map. Some of those airlines will hire a pilot with no time whatsoever and train him up. Usually the inexperienced ones are are limited to cruise only, and the more experienced ones handle takeoff and landing.

    US airlines would never do that, but prior to the 1500 hour minimimum flight time requirement, it was possible to get a right seat job at 250 hours which is nothing.

    BTW, you know that “VFR GA” pilots don’t necessarily have a ton of experience operating in an ATC environment, right? Once you pass your initial ride, you can accumulate thousands of hours without ever talking to an ATCS again.

  54. Is everyone really blaiming ATC?! “Degrees” were never mentioned, it was always “heading”. There is only one heading 180, and that is south. If you are flying a heading 90 and you are told to turn to a heading of 180: YOU TURN RIGHT!. How many times did ATC tell the pilot to go South an kept going North. South is South and given that the pilot never resched a heading of 360, the quickest turn is right!

  55. Joe not quite sure your expertise and comments are welcome here. People these days, don’t like facts and knowledge from somebody in the field relevant to the topic in question. People would much rather somebody with no clue on the issue deliver “truths” in a convincing manner with 3rd or 4th hand “evidence”.

    Dealing with the ignorant and moronic isn’t worth the stress 😉

  56. For what it is worth I think Ryan got it precisely. EVA 15 did the usual turn and thought all was fine – except they had an eastern departure, so ended up flying 360 instead of 180. It is also really hard to get people to respond when they beleive they are already on the right course. It took the other pilot (the captain?) to finally acknowledge and execute the right hand turn to 180.

    Also here is FAA spokesman Ian Gregor:.

    “The air traffic controller at the approach control who was handling EVA instructed the pilot to make a left turn to a 180-degree heading,” he said. “She meant to tell the pilot to make a right turn to a 180-degree heading.”

    Following the controller’s instructions, the pilot turned left.The move sent the plane in the wrong direction, Gregor said.

    When the controller realized the mistake, she “took immediate action to keep EVA safely separated” from the second aircraft as well as ground terrain, Gregor said. She issued the EVA pilot a series of instructions to help him turn south. “The controller wanted to make sure the EVA aircraft was safely above or away from nearby terrain,” he said.

    So according to the FAA the ACT made one mistake then did her job to rectify it.Hardly a dismissable offence.

  57. Claus also noticed that towards the end of the tape, it does appear that the captain came on the radio. The crisp and better English were noticeable.

    Eastbound departures as OP noted are rare, as is bad weather. However Mt. Wilson has been there a long time. The PIC might reasonably be expected to figure out that flying 360 into Mt. Wilson at 5000 ft wasn’t a bright idea, and is certainly free to reject the ATC instruction.

    How many times have those of us who are pilots received insane ATC commands which, given our knowledge of the local terrain, we have declined?

    If this were an accident report, the analysts would have noted the combination of multiple factors, all of which synergized into the crash. This was a very close call.

    Other ATC gotchas in the LAX TCA include ATC references to the “twin high-rises” which actually refers to a pair of rather small apartment buildings in West LA, while looking down from the cockpit, the real high rises in nearby Century City are more more apparent; this often takes a while to sort out.

  58. @Dan. True, true. Good points. I think in this instance though, the pilot did understand “southbound” and just didnt do it. (Or thought he was doing it)

    @TG: 100%

  59. Departing EVA015 is told to climb to 7000 @ 090. He comes back and says “left heading 180” What is that supposed to mean? when the transponder is showing he is heading 090. He requests high speed climb to 7000 and is approved. ATC comes back and says “EVA015 turn right heading 180”, and he ignores that, and starts a slow left turn instead.
    This all would have been avoided if the EVA pilot would have followed the initial instructions in the first place. At the same time, ATC let it get out of control and became confused herself.

  60. MY first comment on internet.
    !00% controller/FAA error. 37 years ATC experience and can’t recall a performance this bad. That includes a stint at accident/incident investigation, and supervisor in SOCAL Departure area. Controller turned EVA left to 180, right to 180, left to 270, turn “southbound” (3 times) then right to 180. Was the pilot confused? I was, and I’m good at this.
    Asking a pilot what he is doing is like a surgeon asking a patient why they are bleeding. A sure sign of weakness. The pilot was doing what he was told. The fact that the controller was working both north and south departures indicates that other controller on duty was in the breakroom sleeping. Prove me wrong.

  61. I believe more computer assisted ATC is needed here. Tower voice message should be converted to text message automatically by computer, and send to the target airplane’s cockpit display. This system can assist the tower, if not replace the tower eventually. The text delay will be less than 0.1 sec. This should start at big jet liner immedustedly. I can deliver a working system in 30 days. In addotion, with a system like that, many people will dare to take pilot test because the horror of not understand the tower is eliminated.

  62. Wow! Controller error on a dangerous level and nearly catastrophic. This is some of the worst phraseology I’ve ever heard… or lack thereof (a lot of non standard, confusing instruction). Absolutely no scan, no situational awareness, no composure, and I could go on… this is something that remedial training may not be able to fix. I spent 25 years as an air traffic controller in Salt Lake City, Seattle and Fort Worth Centers, I was also a radar and non radar air traffic instructor in Oklahoma City after I retired. This type of an error is hard for me to understand, you must use clear and concise phraseology and procedures, clearly that was not happening in this incident.

  63. Didn’t the ATC say turn left rather than right? The pilot was off course though it appears first. the ATC assume the pilot knew to turn right it sounds like.

  64. Part of the issue is the unfamiliarity of both pilots and atc taking off inland instead of over water like usual out of LAX. Lots of miscommunication on both sides which is no excuse.

  65. Apparently “Rude” (December 21 – 10:16pm) was in the Departure Area at SOCAL after I retired. He/she blames the controller without any mention of the dismal failure of the pilot of EVA015 to comply with her instructions. Yes, she initiated what may well have been the path to the worst aviation accident in US history by turning EVA015 left instead of right but she corrected this 30 seconds later, long before there was any danger, when she saw EVA turning north.

    She instructed EVA to turn right WHICH EVA ACKNOWLEDGED. Then she went about trying to salvage the separation issue that she created between ACA788 and EVA using vertical separation. However, when she approved the “high speed climb” for EVA, EVA stopped climbing to increase his airspeed. ACA was climbing at a greater rate so she told him to expedite his climb then she went back to EVA and stopped his climb below ACA.

    At this point she sees EVA015 STILL HEADING NORTH 60 seconds after his acknowledgement to turn right to 180. Why did she turn him left to 270? Probably with the intention of turning south closer to the airport where departures would be below and arrivals would still be above or, more likely, with the intention of going direct VTU after coordination with Burbank, Arrivals and ZLA. For whatever reason that didn’t work out but it didn’t matter anyway because 15 seconds later EVA IS STILL HEADED NORTH.

    I am confused but not for the same reason that “Rude” is. Why hasn’t this guy turned when he acknowledges the instructions to do so twice, once right to 180 and once left to 270? What more can the controller do?

    I might have been thinking no gyro at this point and I probably would have acted accordingly. She didn’t know what the guy was doing so maybe she reverted to “street language” to get her point across but I am not so sure that works with non-native English speakers. I agree with many of the knowledgeable contributors to this blurb that sticking with standard phraseology might have been more productive.

    Runway 7L is used for departures at most 10% of the time at LAX. Given the weather situation in SOCAL the past 5 years that has probably fallen to 5%. Controllers are provided training for east traffic but it was inadequate during the ten years I was there and the weather was normal.

    I think the crew of EVA015 was completely behind the power curve. It is likely if not probable that they have never departed on this runway before, maybe not even in the simulator. All they knew was that they wanted to go to VTU VOR and they couldn’t get there heading south. Going north damn near killed them.

  66. everyone is falsely assuming that that a/c was not taking directions from the controller. He was. Period. If you take an aircraft who is heading north, (“EVA015 passing heading 010”) and turn the aircraft left to 180, then right to 180 and repeat this every 60 seconds, the heading of 180 will take you to Canada.

  67. The controller is an affirmative-action incompetent. Which is why the FAA and MSM are not publicizing that significant fact that standards are lowered for Black hirees. Her comms were incompetent/idiotic including much oddball phrasing and omission of required directions such as WHICH DIRECTION to turn. The FAA is actively pushing affirmative action including dumbing down of standards, so we can expect more disasters as a result.

    A minor issue here was the flt crews poor language skills and apparently a shocking lack of situational awareness and familiarity with the area. As well as the unwillingness to be assertive with a controller vectoring them into granite.

  68. It all went wrong when they were heading 090 and told to turn left onto 180. Could have all been avoided if the asked the controller to clarify that instruction

  69. NTSB has done the investigation and found out that the ATC was doing her job poorly.
    Also to people out there who blame the pilot – B-777 isn’t like military jets or your cars and bikes. It takes a long time turning from one heading to another heading.


    The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this incident to be:
    The incident was caused by the air traffic controller assigning the pilots a left turn instead of
    the required right turn after departure which placed the aircraft in an unsafe proximity with
    terrain and obstructions. Contributing to the incident was the air traffic controller’s inadequate
    recovery technique during the development of the incident.

    A near controlled flight into terrain (CFIT) incident occurred near Mt. Wilson, California, when
    a Boeing 777-300 departing Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) was instructed to turn left
    toward rising terrain after departure from runway 07R. The aircraft was operating on a 14 Code
    of Federal Regulations Part 129 international flight. Air traffic control services were provided
    by the Federal Aviation Administration Southern California Terminal Radar Approach Control
    (SCT TRACON). There was no damage reported to the aircraft, and no reported injuries to the
    passengers or crew.
    Due to weather in the area, LAX was operating in an east flow configuration with aircraft
    departing to the east. The Boeing 777-300 pilot contacted the SCT controller and was given an
    initial climb to 7,000 feet. A short time later, the SCT controller instructed the pilot to turn left
    to a heading of 180 degrees which required a left 270 degree turn. The turn resulted in the
    aircraft turning toward rising terrain and back toward the airport; normal procedures in an
    east flow would have been for a right turn to a heading of 180 degrees. While in the left turn,
    the pilot requested a high speed climb which resulted in the aircraft accelerating beyond the
    250 knot LAX class B speed restriction and required additional airspace in order to complete
    an assigned turn. After recognizing the aircraft was in a left turn, the SCT controller issued the
    crew a right turn to a heading of 180 degrees. As the aircraft began to turn right, the air traffic
    controller instructed the crew to expedite the turn due to recognizing a developing proximity
    issue with another aircraft that had departed from LAX. The air traffic controller stopped the
    climb of the B777-300 and issued a left turn to a heading of 270 degrees. These turns in quick
    succession, combined with the speed of the aircraft, resulted in the flight tracking northbound
    toward rising terrain. The closest lateral and vertical proximity between the airplane and
    terrain/obstructions was about 0.3 miles and 0 ft, respectively, which is less than the minimum
    separation requirements.

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