Shocking: How American 777 Pilots Almost Caused Accident

Shocking: How American 777 Pilots Almost Caused Accident

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Last week I wrote about how an American and Delta jet nearly collided on the runway at JFK. Many of us wondered how something like this could happen, and we now have more information.

Basics of the JFK runway incident between American & Delta

Just to recap the basics, on January 13, 2023, an American Airlines Boeing 777-200ER and Delta Boeing 737-900 nearly collided on runway 4L at JFK. The Delta plane had been given takeoff clearance, and the American plane accidentally taxied to the wrong runway. In the process, the American 777 crossed the runway that was being used for takeoffs, where the Delta plane was accelerating.

Fortunately the air traffic controller quickly noticed what was going on, and the Delta pilots promptly aborted the takeoff, preventing potential disaster. Below you can see a recreation of what happened, and hear the air traffic control audio.

The big question has been how the American 777 pilots could make a mistake like this, not only taxiing to the wrong runway, but crossing an active runway without permission. Well, we now have some insights.

The factors that contributed to this incident

Forbes has an interesting story about what allegedly contributed to this incident. I’m not sure whether knowing these details is reassuring or more concerning. Here are a few of the key facts, according to sources that are quoted:

  • The first officer was brand new to the Boeing 777, and had previously flown on the Boeing 737; she was making her first 777 flight after 100 hours of training flights
  • Not only that, but this was the first officer’s first flight under new cockpit procedures that had been implemented at the airline on January 2
  • With these new procedures, she had to engage in a series of new tasks, including processing takeoff data, including flap and power settings, doing a runway assessment, and making the cabin takeoff announcement

After the incident, the other major question is why the American plane didn’t return to the gate, but instead continued to London. Well, apparently the American pilots didn’t realize how serious the incident was:

  • While air traffic controllers gave the American pilots a phone number to call (as is standard following any sort of safety related incident), it’s not clear if they actually got through
  • The American pilots didn’t initially realize there was a runway incursion; the pilots had only switched to the tower frequency after the Delta plane was cleared for takeoff, so they didn’t realize the Delta plane aborting takeoff had to do with their actions
  • The crew reportedly didn’t understand the seriousness of the situation until the plane got to London
  • While there was a third pilot in the cockpit in the jumpseat, he didn’t seem to realize anything was wrong either

Now, of course this doesn’t address why the (experienced) captain taxied the plane to the wrong runway. Not only were the pilots never cleared to taxi to the runway they were headed for, but you’d think the captain would have realized the general flow of traffic at the airport. How on earth could something like this happen?

So the above in no way explains the root cause of this near disaster. Part of what makes flying safe is that you have multiple sets of eyes double checking that everything is correct. Obviously when you have one pilot who is less experienced and is also learning new procedures, it potentially reduces safety margins.

But it does seem increasingly clear that there was some general confusion and stress in the cockpit, as you had a very inexperienced first officer on that specific plane, combined with brand new procedures.

The first officer was brand new to the Boeing 777

The union’s interesting safety concerns

It can be debated whether the new cockpit procedures contributed to this incident. You had a first officer who was taking her first post-training 777 flight, and on top of that she was learning new general cockpit procedures.

When American introduced these new cockpit safety procedures at the beginning of the year, the Allied Pilots Association (the union representing American pilots) warned of the safety risks of doing this.

Specifically, the union argued that in-person training should have been done, rather than this being done via a bulletin where pilots are just supposed to read up on the new rules. As a spokesperson for the union said at the time, “a reading assignment is not training.”

Per the union’s announcement on January 2:

American Airlines Flight Operations management is attempting to circumvent robust safety-related pilot training by unilaterally imposing operational changes via bulletin. While APA does not oppose fleet harmonization, we are steadfast in our commitment that pilots must be properly trained BEFORE operating with passengers. This training must be developed in a stakeholder safety culture that acknowledges and addresses concerns raised by APA. To date, that has not occurred. This attempt to train by bulletin, while ignoring serious safety concerns and well-established best practices, runs the risk of dramatically eroding margins of safety.

Simply put, management’s actions are unwise and unsafe.

The operational changes that management is attempting to implement without fulsome training alters how pilots communicate, coordinate, and execute flight safety duties at some of the most high-threat times of flight. These high-threat times include, but are not limited to, rejected takeoffs, low visibility approaches, and go-arounds. Aligned and standardized crew communication and coordination is the bedrock of maintaining the safety margin during all phases of flight, but particularly during high task-loaded maneuvers. Management’s attempt to train by bulletin reeks of training on the cheap and placing profits before people.

And then just around two weeks later, this incident happens. I’m not suggesting that this is the reason such a serious incident nearly occurred, though I think it’s at least a possibility that it contributed to the confusion in the cockpit.

The union wasn’t happy with how new procedures were implemented

Bottom line

An American Airlines Boeing 777 recently taxied onto a runway at JFK as a Delta Boeing 737 was taking off. Fortunately the air traffic controller caught what was going on, and canceled the takeoff clearance for the Delta jet. Catastrophe was narrowly avoided, and it’s possible (though not guaranteed) that this could have ended very differently.

There have been questions about how something like this could happen. While it remains to be seen why a senior 777 captain would taxi a plane to the wrong runway, we now know that the first officer was brand new to the Boeing 777, and was also still familiarizing herself with new cockpit procedures, which she was dealing with for the first time.

I’m curious what a full investigation reveals in terms of how the plane could taxi to the wrong runway without anyone noticing.

What do you make of the added details regarding this incident?

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  1. Leigh Ross Guest

    One thing that stands out to me is that the FO must have been a very poor pilot of this report is accurate. After completion of sim training one normally gets one or two flights with a line check airman before being released on line. 100 hours of flight training indicates that the FO was marginal pilot , needing way more training than the average line pilot requires.
    So it’s entirely possible the FO...

    One thing that stands out to me is that the FO must have been a very poor pilot of this report is accurate. After completion of sim training one normally gets one or two flights with a line check airman before being released on line. 100 hours of flight training indicates that the FO was marginal pilot , needing way more training than the average line pilot requires.
    So it’s entirely possible the FO was overwhelmed by the taxi workload and that this led to inattention to the taxi route clearance.

  2. Anthony joseph Guest

    My understanding is that the pilot "driving the plane" should be totally focused on this task, with the other pilot doing all of the support tasks including ATC coomms. But on taxi, there should NOT be any other tasks with both pilots totally focused on a safe taxi.
    At the end of the day, both pilots should be fired. This is totally inexcusable. As another comment pointed out, the type of aircraft should not...

    My understanding is that the pilot "driving the plane" should be totally focused on this task, with the other pilot doing all of the support tasks including ATC coomms. But on taxi, there should NOT be any other tasks with both pilots totally focused on a safe taxi.
    At the end of the day, both pilots should be fired. This is totally inexcusable. As another comment pointed out, the type of aircraft should not matter on taxi procedures for the first officer.
    But with all the technology we have, surely there can be safety lights flashing red on aprons when there is an active takeoff or landing.

  3. Dmodemd Guest

    The airport tested the runway lights and determined those flashing red lights in front of the runway were working. That was ignored as well.

    1. Dan77W Guest

      There are no “flashing red lights” at runway crossings in the US. There ARE flashing yellow lights (wigwags) at the sides, but they would be flashing yellow regardless of you crossing 31L at Kilo, which they were cleared to do, or where they incorrectly crossed on 4L. It would be the same visual ques.

  4. Andy Diamond

    I’m a bit surprised there is no mentioning of the taxiway lighting. Traditionally, there was a requirement that active runways are marked by flashing orange lights. Additionally, most larger airports have introduced a red “bar” across the taxiway, which makes it more obvious that the aircraft shouldn’t enter. I such a red bar in place at JFK?

    1. Dan77W Guest

      Red stop bars are not installed at US airports, still in awe of that.

  5. Neil Guest

    The air traffic controllers deserve a commendation or a medal - they just saved a lot of lives! Of course we can say they we’re just doing their jobs, but this is an opportunity to recognize just how important a job it is.

  6. Randy Diamond

    Question is - who was "driving" the airplane. The Captain or the 1st officer. If Captain was you can't really blame the 1st officer, but she or the 3rd pilot should have been following and caught it.

    Problem is if procedures and checks are not followed to the "T" - something can happen like the NorthWest DC9 out of Detriot - pilots forgot to put down the flaps.

    1. Tim Dunn Diamond

      the rudder pedals used to turn an aircraft on the ground only exist for the left or captain's seat of a commercial aircraft. the captain always taxis the aircraft

    2. Dan77W Guest

      @Tim

      Lots of things wrong with what you just said. Primary method of steering on the ground is the tiller wheel, not the rudder pedals (rudder pedals are on both sides btw). Not on all types but on the 777 they do have tillers installed on both sides. At my old carrier if the FO was designated PF the were pilot flying (and driving) from initial taxi all the way to brakes set at the destination.

    3. JonNYC New Member

      A TILLER is used to steer the aircraft on the ground, not PEDALS. The pedals work on both sides of the aircraft to steer but have an extremely limited steering angle range.

      At AA, some aircraft have TILLERS on both sides of the flight deck, but SOP is to have only the captain taxi.

    4. Tim Dunn Diamond

      looks like I made it pretty clear that I am not a pilot, although I had "tiller" in my head....
      I did get to the bottom line in that AA capts do taxi if I am reading Jon's post correctly

    5. UA-NYC Guest

      Maybe stick to Delta fanboy posts then, vs. pretending you know how to pilot a 777. Don't have to be a faux expert in everything you know.

    6. Tim Dunn Diamond

      you don't have to show up everywhere I do either.

    7. Grant Merrill Guest

      Not true! Tillers are used while taxiing large aircraft. B747 had tillers for both pilots.

  7. IrishAlan Member

    It still concerns me that the AA plane was allowed to take off! I hope an outcome of this investigation is to start putting standard procedures in place to have a plane involved in an incursion that almost causes an accident return to gate. The pilots should be breathalyzed and debrief and a relief crew should fly the plane. We don’t allow pilots that time out to fly even if they feel fine so why...

    It still concerns me that the AA plane was allowed to take off! I hope an outcome of this investigation is to start putting standard procedures in place to have a plane involved in an incursion that almost causes an accident return to gate. The pilots should be breathalyzed and debrief and a relief crew should fly the plane. We don’t allow pilots that time out to fly even if they feel fine so why on earth would we let pilots that almost cause a catastrophic accident to take off?

  8. Laurence J Wolf sr Guest

    Well first of all I think that the issue with training and the way that things were done by American is really the biggest part of this issue. I think also ultimately in any aircraft the captain has the ultimate final responsibility for decisions made in the operation of the aircraft. In saying that I believe that emphasizing that the first officer being her first day on active duty roster on a aircraft that she...

    Well first of all I think that the issue with training and the way that things were done by American is really the biggest part of this issue. I think also ultimately in any aircraft the captain has the ultimate final responsibility for decisions made in the operation of the aircraft. In saying that I believe that emphasizing that the first officer being her first day on active duty roster on a aircraft that she just got done training for and also imposed on her this new training process for somewhat what we can conceive our major operational activities within the cockpit I think emphasizing that point was a mistake. I believe the first officer especially in the situation she was in was really trying to do her best based on what she had learned and probably wanted to make an impression that being her first ride in this new aircraft that she was going to do do her best so I don't think that you know although she might have had a lot on her plate I don't think that the ultimate responsibility for this error in judgment to cross an active runway was on her at all. So we have two points here, the training and the captain. I will make my comment on the training first and I think here American after all this is said and done should be fined for the way they approached the training through a bulletin training like this especially operational activities within an aircraft cockpit in relating to let's say take off landing aborted take off and go around those are stressful points of the minutes of flight that any captain or first officer goes through so to go cheap on the training try to do it by bulletin instead of having each individual checked out by a senior individual is bogus plain and simple. Now the captain in this particular situation it was his responsibility for the aircraft and his responsibility to not check to make sure that based on what I heard it they on the ATC radios that he had the correct runway and taxiways, because, the way I heard it, it didn't seem like the readback was correct or there was confusion in the read back but many event they got the correct taxiway and runway designation from ATC and he chose his tunnel vision for runway 31 instead of 4L. No I don't know it was in his mind I have no idea what he was thinking you know I don't know the culture in American with their pilots and how they work together in a male and female environment but I do know that some males are dogs and maybe his mine wasn't in the right spot but that's just me I could be off base on that and if I am I apologize for my statement but it's still something that could have happened that caused this issue to go haywire. When it comes to women I've seen guys especially if it's the first time they've seen them they want to try to make an impression and who knows you know what was going on during their discussion and where his brain was at but that's just something that can't be thrown off to the side just because people don't want to believe in something like that it just it's part of the reality we are who we are as humans and how we interact with one another has a lot to do with how things are done was working with one another and in an environment such as a cockpit the the ultimate goal is always professionalism any personal stuff has to go out the window when you sit in that seat. So my conclusion is this we got to look at the captain for his decision he was ultimately responsible we got to look at American for their training they were bogus and the way they approached training especially for these major changes and we got to leave the first officer out of the steel because really I think she again she was only there trying to do her best in a situation and I'm sure she's pretty well tore up about what happened especially being her first ride on the 777 which is a beautiful aircraft and I've been told I haven't ever flown one but I've been told that it's a wonderful aircraft to fly so that's my that's what I got That's my humble opinion on all of this stuff and you can take some of it leave some of it like to hear some of your comments and I'll take your criticisms either way if you don't believe in what I'm what I say about cock being interactions you know oh well. Safe flying folks.

  9. Josh Guest

    No EXCUSES for this to have EVER happened! Hopefully this pilot will be looking for a new job soon!

  10. HS Guest

    Something that should be pointed out is that where the flight missed the turn at JFK is a horrible mess. I can see if you're distracted in the cockpit (there was a "training" FO after all) I can see how you might miss taxiway B (where they were supposed to turn) but on the other hand, they crossed RW 4 when cleared to cross RW 31 and there are signs that would have earned you.

  11. Robert Guest

    Do we know how much experience the first officer has? It's even more concerning that certainly
    she wasn't a total newbie pilot. Someone who had flown before shouldn't have much trouble with checklists. Which also adds to you're point that the pilot is the one who went the wrong place. This is wrong on so many counts

  12. D3kingg Guest

    I think this incident is being blown out of proportion. Guess what nothing happened. I’m sure the First Officer on the American flight will take this as a learning experience and hope they move on to a successful career with American.

    I’m not an advocate of NTSB FAA investigations into near miss incidents (which this wasn’t ). If it wasn’t a crash there should not even be an event and we should move on.

    1. D3kingg Guest

      @JonNYC

      How many fatalities? Non incident bud.

      @Tim Dunn

      AA plane would have cleared even if the 737 continued to takeoff. That would have been a “near miss”

    2. Tim Dunn Diamond

      we don't allow safety to be reduced to calculations of near miss by feet when there are specific spacing that was violated.
      You, sir, are part of the problem.
      Safety margins were violated.
      The solution is to find the reason and fix it and not to write off what happened as "no big deal"
      thankfully people in the FAA and NTSB don't think like you

    3. Tim Dunn Diamond

      nothing happened because other humans in the safety system made up for the failures of the AA crew.
      When even one part of the system fails, it is time to find out why and fix it, not sweep the problem under the rug because there was no disaster.

    4. UA-NYC Guest

      IIRC you're also one of those 'Muricans who said NBD with regards to Jan 6, right? I mean, the government and democracy stood and all. SMFH.

    5. Sosongblue Guest

      UA-NYC

      Wow your mind is truly broken……get help! We could be talking about Air Fiji’s new catering and it would still come back somehow to Jan 6/trump. Your making us lefties look deranged.

    6. Bob Guest

      So your logic is that as long as nobody got hurt we should barely do anything or make any noise. Like if there were automobile near misses on the corner of Broadway and main a busy intersection we should just ignore until someone gets run over which is exactly what happens on many streets. So be a proponent of reactive safety vs proactive? Ok.

    7. D3kingg Guest

      @all

      I would consider the 2001 Japan mid air incident much more severe than this incident.

      Our transportation infrastructure is fragile enough as is these days. If you want more qualified airline employees terminated and less flights then expect more cancellations, delays , higher airfare , and less frequencies.

    8. Mike Guest

      @d3kingg: So you're saying an event with a 100 injuries, 9 of which were serious, criminal investigation, trial, and convictions more serious than a near miss on the ground with 0 injuries? Yeah, that's not exactly a hot take. If that's the level that you think it takes for an investigation to be taken, that's absurd. I don't think anyone automatically needs to be fired for this (depending on what was actually happening based on...

      @d3kingg: So you're saying an event with a 100 injuries, 9 of which were serious, criminal investigation, trial, and convictions more serious than a near miss on the ground with 0 injuries? Yeah, that's not exactly a hot take. If that's the level that you think it takes for an investigation to be taken, that's absurd. I don't think anyone automatically needs to be fired for this (depending on what was actually happening based on the investigation), but the way we make sure that these kinds of near misses don't turn into injuries and fatalities in the future is by performing those investigations, determining the root cause, and addressing the issues present.

    9. seanp78 New Member

      “This wasn’t a near miss” - wow, I’ll do “Horrible Takes” for $500, thanks Alex…

  13. Alpha Golf Member

    As others note, the Forbes is very much a union narrative placing the blame away from the pilots.

    I suspect we'll never really know since they continued to London -- I'm betting, in order to overwrite the CVR. So we'll never know what they were talking about when they needed to be paying attention.

    1. Truth hurts Guest

      If the incident was as serious as described (I believe it was a near tragedy) why was the AA 777 allowed to depart? Seems pretty clear that ATC knew it would requires some investigation. (i.e. "call this number...)

      Seems likely they also called company before departure as well. That's SOP. Did the company tell them to go to LHR to wipe out the CVR?

      Does ATC/FAA have the ability to to cancel a...

      If the incident was as serious as described (I believe it was a near tragedy) why was the AA 777 allowed to depart? Seems pretty clear that ATC knew it would requires some investigation. (i.e. "call this number...)

      Seems likely they also called company before departure as well. That's SOP. Did the company tell them to go to LHR to wipe out the CVR?

      Does ATC/FAA have the ability to to cancel a takeoff clearance by a crew who ATC believed made a major mistake? or did no one want to rock the boat?

      The airlines will land a plane for disruptive drunk or some other imaginary threat and yet they just send this plane and crew over the pond?

      Lots more questions on this incident.

    2. bhcompy Member

      I don't think anyone could ever argue that Forbes is a pro union rag

    3. JorgeGeorge Paez Guest

      Cockpit Voice Recorder.....

    4. Lisa Guest

      Cockpit voice recorder

    5. Eskimo Guest

      @Alpha Golf

      Another example of having all the technologies available over the counter just to be left out by dinosaurs.

      Unionosaurus would go berserk if you have to transmit the whole CVR (and should be video not just voice) realtime. And the storage time, we can buy terabytes of SSD for couple of dollars, that's more than enough for a 4K recording for the entire flight, and maybe HD for weeks. All in a size of a coin.

    6. Alpha Golf Member

      NTSB has for years asked FAA to increase the duration to 25 hours, as Europe has done. But FAA hasn't bothered.

  14. Eskimo Guest

    The 737 excuse is stupid (yet some comments are actually giving it weight). JFK isn't 777 exclusive. Even AA flies 737 out of JFK too.
    Do you run a STOP sign near your home because you're in a new car?

    I don't know how many more incidents or loss of lives need to happen before we stop this. I have to keep saying this.

    Isn't it about time we automate all these things and...

    The 737 excuse is stupid (yet some comments are actually giving it weight). JFK isn't 777 exclusive. Even AA flies 737 out of JFK too.
    Do you run a STOP sign near your home because you're in a new car?

    I don't know how many more incidents or loss of lives need to happen before we stop this. I have to keep saying this.

    Isn't it about time we automate all these things and leave human error out of the equation.

    We have all the technologies available over the counter, but a bunch of Regulatorsaurus who are buddies with Unionosaurus aren't extinct yet.

    If a $300 game console can calculate and a $50k Tesla can self navigate, when will you apply it to a hundred million dollar flying tube.

    1. Truth hurts Guest

      Eskimo has raised some very interesting questions with very colorful descriptions.

      I hope the findings by the FAA aren't buried in the basement of a Federal building like the Epstein client list and Hunter's laptop.

    2. D3kingg Guest

      @Eskimo

      Automation is coming only a matter of when but some of these technologies are 100-150 years off from now. We only have so much time on this planet.

    3. Dave Guest

      Automated doesn't necessarily mean safer. It can be argued that MCAS is an example of automation.

    4. Eskimo Guest

      @Dave

      It can be argued that even with pilots didn't prevent the crash.

    5. Dan77W Guest

      Automation isn’t all or nothing……. “Follow the greens” and/or “red stop bars” which are in use in many large airports are technologies would have prevented this.

    6. Ryan Guest

      HUD with visual indicator lines showing correct pathway could be used to aid pilots in navigating to their runway.

    7. GBOAC Diamond

      Off topic a bit, but it turns out that autodrive Teslas don't always behave well. Not a great example of trusting autonomous vehicles

    8. Mike Guest

      "Do you run a STOP sign near your home because you're in a new car?"

      Do I automatically run it? No. Is there a higher chance (even if its infinitesimally small)? Probably. Is there a higher chance (probably not infinitesimally small, but actually measurable) in a new car at an intersection I only visit occasionally, in the dark and in the rain? Yeah, there probably is. I used to rent cars a decent amount and,...

      "Do you run a STOP sign near your home because you're in a new car?"

      Do I automatically run it? No. Is there a higher chance (even if its infinitesimally small)? Probably. Is there a higher chance (probably not infinitesimally small, but actually measurable) in a new car at an intersection I only visit occasionally, in the dark and in the rain? Yeah, there probably is. I used to rent cars a decent amount and, especially before the days where a lot of this is automated, getting into a new car I could absolutely feel myself not being as focused as in my normal car. In a normal situation it would almost certainly be fine, but if I'm driving a car in a new area and its dusk and now I have to find the headlight switch (which I definitely looked for before I started the car, but it isn't muscle memory like it is on my normal car) and oh, it just started drizzling and I need to turn the windshield wipers on (same comment). Oh, and how do I switch over the rear view mirror from day view to night view? Yeah, you can get sidetracked, and it only takes a moment for something to happen.

      Again, not saying that it automatically happens, but is it statistically more likely to happen in a new vehicle versus a vehicle you know very well? Yeah, it is.

    9. Eskimo Guest

      @Mike

      You are missing the point of "near your home". JFK is one of AA 'home'.

      If this went down in a AA charter flight at LGW, I would agree that it's much more likely to happen.
      On your backyard, you probably stop even in a fog with zero visibility in a new car.

  15. derek Guest

    Trump is the cause of this incident. If Trump were never President, this wouldn't happen. The timeline would be slightly altered, like fewer people criticizing Trump and then being at a different place that moment, even seconds ahead.

    Trump should be impeached a 3rd time for this AA JFK incident.

    1. Eskimo Guest

      This Multiverse trend is killing me.

    2. TravelinWilly Diamond

      “Trump should be impeached a 3rd time for this AA JFK incident.”

      Nah, he should just be imprisoned for all his corruption, inciting/supporting a coup attempt/insurrection, and being an asshole.

    3. Joe Guest

      No in that universe trump would have one too many mickey D fries, his heart would explode causing multiple runway incursions.

  16. Manny Guest

    In person training costs $$, plain and simple.

  17. Donna Diamond

    Three pilots in the cockpit, two were occupied with tasks, maybe even distracted by new procedures, but what was the relief pilot in the jump seat doing? One would think the relief pilot would have caught the mistake. Also, do they have red terminating lights at JFK for runway crossings? Were they working and missed by the crew? Truly scary given all the safeguards that are in place to prevent these runway incursions.

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ Donna -- They do have those lights, and the claim is that the captain didn't see them because of the sharp turns he was making near the runway.

    2. dave Guest

      why didn't you mention this in your article? seems fairly relevant....

    3. Dan77W Guest

      @Ben,

      They do not have red stop bars for runway crossings at JFK, just the standard wigwags if anything, they DO have red runways status lights as I recall on 4L but they would only be visible to the 737 on initial lineup. The ques to the 777 pilot in lighting would be exactly the same as if they had correctly crossed 31L at K .

  18. CB Guest

    Was there not a similar change to cockpit task management communicated to pilots and mentioned in the report when the AA 321 rolled on take off at JFK a coupe of years back?

  19. Never In Doubt Guest

    "Stories" written by Forbes.com "Contributors" are universally garbage fires for clicks.

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ Never In Doubt -- Analysis aside, if the details presented are true (that it was the first officer's first non-training flight on the 777), I think that's a pretty interesting detail.

  20. GB Guest

    They were initially cleared to line up and wait on 31L?

  21. Tim Dunn Diamond

    first, if the FO was making an announcement re: prepare for takeoff, the change in procedure from having the captain do it wasn't a change for her; the whole process was new to her.

    The NTSB legitimately will examine all of the factors at play and the APA (AA's pilot union) might be exonerated for raising concerns but there are some basic questions that just don't add up. The captain should have been a mid...

    first, if the FO was making an announcement re: prepare for takeoff, the change in procedure from having the captain do it wasn't a change for her; the whole process was new to her.

    The NTSB legitimately will examine all of the factors at play and the APA (AA's pilot union) might be exonerated for raising concerns but there are some basic questions that just don't add up. The captain should have been a mid to high seniority person to begin with. How they missed some basic aspects of the flight - such as the current airport configuration (which runways were being used for takeoff) and didn't do a visual check before crossing the runway is highly questionable.

    Whether the AA crew realized what happened before they arrived at LHR is not the point. Any pilot knows that if you are told to contact ATC via a phone number that something significant is at stake.

    AA and the FAA and NTSB needs to figure it out and AA pilots will undoubtedly be extra careful as they should be until there are genuine answers and corrective measures.

  22. JoePro Guest

    I'm with others on this. The piece offers no explanation as to why they got it wrong, only speculation as to what contributing factors might have been in play.

    1. pstm91 Diamond

      Not only that, but the last blog on this put the blame on the control tower, so I'm still not sure what to think. Nothing in this other than a lack of experience tells me what the AA pilots did wrong. Meanwhile the last blog has the audio and states
      "Fortunately we have the taxi clearance that the American pilots were given, and this puts the blame pretty squarely on them:
      American pilot:...

      Not only that, but the last blog on this put the blame on the control tower, so I'm still not sure what to think. Nothing in this other than a lack of experience tells me what the AA pilots did wrong. Meanwhile the last blog has the audio and states
      "Fortunately we have the taxi clearance that the American pilots were given, and this puts the blame pretty squarely on them:
      American pilot: Ground, American 106 heavy, TA for taxi.
      Air traffic controller: 106 heavy, Kennedy ground, runway 4L, taxi left B, hold short of K.
      American pilot: B, short of K, American 106.
      Air traffic controller: American 106 heavy, cross runway 31L at K.
      American pilot: Cross 31L at K, American 106 heavy."

    2. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ pstm91 -- Sorry, the last blog post I wrote put the blame on the controllers? That would be news to me.

    3. Eskimo Guest

      @pstm91

      As a reader, I don't get that message at all. But if your conclusion is based on this "Fortunately we have the taxi clearance that the American pilots were given, and this puts the blame pretty squarely on them"

      Maybe your reading comprehension might be the problem, but I'm not going to put the full blame on you because of confusing pronouns. Them is as confusing as it is. 'Make your own' pronoun would even make things worse.

    4. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ JoePro -- Oh, I'm not suggesting that this is the reason this happened. The big question is still why the captain taxied to the wrong runway. But I still find it interesting that it was the first officer's first non-training flight.

    5. JoePro Guest

      Sure, it's interesting.
      I'd love to hear the cockpit tapes (or at least the transcript) for this whole thing, though. Best insight (barring their own, honest explanation) may come from that.

    6. JoePro Guest

      And I think based on the title of "How American 777 Pilots Almost Caused Accident." I was thinking there was an explanation to follow. Thus my impression was that you thought this was why this happened.

  23. Alex Guest

    Lucky, you're being a little naive posting the union's narrative word for word about one of their members making a huge mistake.

    Like... she had to say "Flight attendants, prepare for takeoff" and this is why they taxied onto the active runway? Really? Does that pass the sniff test to you?

    1. John Guest

      Passes the smell test to me. And there was a lot more to it than the FA announcement as a Ben noted in the article.

    2. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ Alex -- I'm sharing the union's statement from January 2, before the incident. Again, I am not suggesting this is the root cause of the incident, but rather that it's possible that new procedures and a pilot's first flight on an aircraft possibly contributed on some level (or else that's just a really strange coincidence).

  24. Darin Member

    If you’ve been following JonNYC’s coverage, he’s calling BS on this and has been quoting informed sources countering the union view. Example:

    “Here's an opinion shared from someone who always give me considered, informed input:

    "That Forbes article is the most sensationalist CYA piece I have ever read.

    It makes pilots look like imbeciles, and that maybe computers 'should' replace pilots."

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ Darin -- Honestly, though, do the pilots look less like imbeciles if we're to believe that three of them just taxied to the wrong runway without noticing it, all while having no distractions and confusion?

    2. Eskimo Guest

      Computers "should" replace pilots.

      Pilots are not imbeciles, they are just humans. One thing we can guarantee is, humans make mistakes.

    3. ItsEZwhenItsNotYour$ Guest

      I am 100% sure you have no clue on what a huge, costly endeavor it would be to develop something that would be anything near as safe as what we neve write now. And you know who deveops, tests and implements this automation you seek? Humans.
      If you believe in the this , put your $$$$$ down and make it happen

  25. Jim Baround Guest

    So you said there was a change to procedures for F/O flow on the 777, but this was also the F/O's first flight on the 777. So was it actually a change for her?

    The APA piece talks about fleet process harmonization, so presumably this has already been the process on other fleets.

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ Jim Baround -- This was a general change in workflow between captain and first officer, which would be the same regardless of aircraft otherwise. So it's not just that she was learning a new type of aircraft, but also a new general procedure for how pilots interact and distribute their duties.

    2. Matt Guest

      It may have been a change from what she learned during training.

    3. Dan77W Guest

      @Jim

      This was her first flight on the 777 out of her IOE (training flights) where she would have been trained, drilled and checked on the old procedures…. After she was released to “the line” from the training department the new procedures were introduced, this was her first flight out of training AND under the new procedures.

  26. Gary Leff Guest

    The Ted Reed piece is cya pilots union narrative and a poor excuse for the incident.

    1. There is zero indication the new procedures had anything to do with this incident.

    2. There were 3 777 pilots on board, none of them noticed they were going the wrong way.

    3. They were informed of a possible pilot deviation. They spent half an hour on the ground after the incursion. If they still didn't know what...

    The Ted Reed piece is cya pilots union narrative and a poor excuse for the incident.

    1. There is zero indication the new procedures had anything to do with this incident.

    2. There were 3 777 pilots on board, none of them noticed they were going the wrong way.

    3. They were informed of a possible pilot deviation. They spent half an hour on the ground after the incursion. If they still didn't know what happened that is worse not better.

    As you write "Now, of course this doesn’t address why the (experienced) captain taxied the plane to the wrong runway." And that makes the rest of Ted's piece basically irrelevant.

    APA is pushing 'everybody's fault but the pilots' narrative via Ted and elsewhere but it does not hold.

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ Gary Leff -- Regarding the third point, if the pilots knew that they were so close to a Tenerife Disaster style event, and would possibly be facing significant punishment, would they really have been in a mental state to fly across the Atlantic? Shouldn't the flight have been canceled at that point?

      I certainly wouldn't feel comfortable being on a plane with pilots in such a mental state, as they'd probably be even more...

      @ Gary Leff -- Regarding the third point, if the pilots knew that they were so close to a Tenerife Disaster style event, and would possibly be facing significant punishment, would they really have been in a mental state to fly across the Atlantic? Shouldn't the flight have been canceled at that point?

      I certainly wouldn't feel comfortable being on a plane with pilots in such a mental state, as they'd probably be even more distracted than they were during the initial incident.

    2. Emily_K New Member

      An incident such as this would require the pilots to liaison with an FODM (Flight Operations Duty Manager) in order to continue the flight. Aside from contacting ATC, this is almost certainly what the pilots were doing for 30 minutes. This process exists for a reason to make sure there is a second opinion on whether crews are safe to continue duty after an incident, accident, or irregularity.

    3. Eskimo Guest

      @Gary Leff

      It is indeed a poor narrative, but still facts. And most people can see through it.

      That being said, regarding the third point.
      If you or @Lucky pay attention to the recordings from VASAviation, AA pilots did contact (I assume the tower or some FAA rep) number provided by ATC regarding the deviation.
      "If they still didn't know what happened", I'm pointing towards whoever the pilots called and talked to and didn't stop them from continuing the flight.

    4. Bagoly Guest

      Unfortunately nowadays corporate instinct (including by lawyers) is to deny, and destroy evidence.
      The over-writing the CVR two-hour loop sounds all too likely, although we have not yet seen any proof of that.

  27. TDunn Guest

    Very interesting, thank you.

    The bottom line with unions is always going to be money. Even shrouded in concerns of safety. Additional in-person training likely would have been overtime pay, or required pulling pilots off routes. Follow the money.

    But, I have to agree, the Union was right!

    1. Tim Dunn Diamond

      since you clearly can't produce responses that will get you diamond status on this site, the next best thing is to copy someone's name that has and HOPE you might say something intelligent.

      GET A LIFE

    2. ORD_Is_My_Second_Home Member

      Tim, the only reason you have Diamond status here is that Lucky did a status match to Delta for you.

    3. Ralph4878 Guest

      @TDunn - anything to trash a union, right?
      Because they don't care about their workers' safety - just the money, right?
      Let me guess: you've never been a member of a union, have you?

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Tim Dunn Diamond

we don't allow safety to be reduced to calculations of near miss by feet when there are specific spacing that was violated. You, sir, are part of the problem. Safety margins were violated. The solution is to find the reason and fix it and not to write off what happened as "no big deal" thankfully people in the FAA and NTSB don't think like you

4
JonNYC New Member

Wrong on every count

4
seanp78 New Member

“This wasn’t a near miss” - wow, I’ll do “Horrible Takes” for $500, thanks Alex…

3
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