Here’s some air traffic control audio that avgeeks might enjoy. There was no danger here, or anything, but rather it’s just an interesting exchange between some Emirates pilots and air traffic controllers in Toronto.
Emirates pilots confused over gate assignment
This incident involves EK241, Emirates’ Airbus A380 flight between Dubai and Toronto. On this particular flight, the plane had touched down at Toronto’s Lester B. Pearson International Airport (YYZ), and the plane prepared to taxi to the gate.
Emirates ordinarily operates out of Terminal 1 at YYZ, but in this case the A380 was directed to go to a gate at Terminal 3, due to congestion in the international arrivals hall of Terminal 1.
Air traffic controllers told the Emirates pilots to taxi to gate C34A, via taxiways “A” and “AK.” There was only one slight problem — the pilots weren’t expecting to park at that gate, and the pilots’ paperwork showed that the A380 was too big to park at that gate, and that the A380 couldn’t taxi on some of those taxiways.
At this point the pilots and air traffic controller get into a bit of a heated argument:
Emirates pilot: Alright, I’ve flown into Toronto many, many times with the A380. Never parked at a C gate. My paperwork shows that the taxiways in that direction are all red for us, not approved. The C gate is not approved for us. And we’re gonna need a follow-me, we’re gonna need wing walkers if you want us to park over there.
Air traffic controller: Emirates 241, I don’t know what to tell you. I’m gonna give you a phone number you can call yourself cause I don’t know what else to tell you. It’s perfectly adequate for, and I can’t speak for your paperwork, but I’ll give you a phone number and you can call them. I can pass you over to apron as well and you can talk to them. That’s all I can do for you.
Emirates pilot: Yeah, well, I’m not calling anybody from here. Park brake is gonna be set. You will have to arrange a follow-me and wing walkers cause my paperwork shows that this is all red taxiways once I enter at “AK” there and I can’t take the plane until I have confirmation that it’s okay to go.
Eventually the pilots are put in touch with apron controllers, who clear up the situation. Specifically, gate C34A is acceptable for an A380 if the gates on each side of that are empty, and in this case they were in fact both empty. The pilots are also reassured that there will be wing walkers when they pull into the gate. Sure enough, several minutes later the plane taxied to the gate without issue.
You can listen to the ATC audio for yourself here:
What makes this audio interesting
While both the pilots and air traffic controllers are acting professionally, it’s interesting to me how this briefly gets heated, and there’s a standoff of sorts. You have the air traffic controller saying “I don’t know what to tell you” and advising the pilots to call a number, while the pilots say that they’re going to put on the parking brakes, and that they’re not going to call anyone.
While I’m neither a pilot nor an air traffic controller, I can see both sides here, and I think both sides were doing their best given the confusion:
- The pilots are responsible for the safe operation of the plane, so it’s perfectly understandable that they don’t want to taxi somewhere that their paperwork prohibits, because they could get in trouble for that if something goes wrong
- The air traffic controllers were giving proper commands to the pilots, in the sense that they were sending them to a gate that’s suitable for the A380, and the taxiways could accommodate the huge jet as well
- This ultimately came down to a discrepancy between the gate the Emirates pilots were expecting (which presumably the paperwork was prepared for), vs. the gate in a different terminal that they ended up being assigned
There’s some fun audio from a recent interaction between Emirates A380 pilots and air traffic controllers at Toronto International Airport. The Emirates plane was assigned a gate in a different terminal that the pilots weren’t expecting, and Emirates’ paperwork didn’t show the taxiways or gates as being able to handle the A380.
Understandably the pilots didn’t want to do something risky that they could be held responsible for. This was quickly resolved, but it did get tense for a moment.
What do you make of this ATC audio?