Sloppy & Childish American Airlines Pilot Gets Aggressive

Sloppy & Childish American Airlines Pilot Gets Aggressive

37

As an aviation geek, I love listening to air traffic control audio, and always enjoy the VASAviation YouTube channel, which does a great job covering noteworthy air traffic control interactions. The channel has just uploaded a video involving an interaction between a Phoenix air traffic controller and an American Airlines pilot.

Often when I share these clips, there’s not one party that’s completely in the right or wrong. Well, in this case the fault 100% lies with the pilot, and he definitely needs a talking to, as he seems to have a serious anger issue when being called out over his unsafe communication.

American pilot struggles to communicate properly

This incident involves a recent American Airlines flight from El Paso (ELP) to Phoenix (PHX), with the flight number AA1479. Before we get into the details, let me emphasize the key thing to listen for here, for those who may not be familiar with air traffic control communications.

When pilots are given instructions by air traffic controllers, it’s very important that they read them back accurately. This includes reading back the callsign of the aircraft, as well as the specific instructions (altitude, runway, heading, etc.). After all, we’ve seen a lot of close calls lately, and many of those can be avoided when everyone is on the same page.

With that in mind, here’s how the communication starts between the pilot and air traffic controller:

Pilot: “Phoenix approach, good evening, American 1479, with you.”
Controller: “American 1479, Phoenix approach, expect 25L.”
Pilot: “25L.”
Controller: “American 1479, 26 available tonight, if you’d like.”
Pilot: “We will take 26!”
Controller: “American 1479, verify that’s you.”
Pilot: “That is American 1479, sorry. We will take 26.”
Controller: “American 1479, expect 26, fly present heading, maintain 5,000.”
Pilot: “Present heading, 5,000, expect 26.”
Controller: “American 1479, if you could fill the callsign again. Fly present heading, maintain 5,000.”

I just want to point out how ridiculous this is, because in three interactions in a row, the pilot fails to read back the callsign. Like, you learn to read back your callsign or tail number on your first day of getting your private pilot license, so the pilot of a commercial airliner shouldn’t make a mistake like that.

Interestingly at this point, the other pilot takes over communications briefly, as you hear a different voice, and he’s much calmer and more competent. Then the first pilot takes over with communications again, and unfortunately it goes even further downhill:

Controller: “American 1479, cleared visual approach runway 26.”
Pilot: “Cleared for the visual approach, American 1479.”
Controller: “American 1479, cleared visual approach runway 26.”
Pilot: “Uh, we got a communication problem. Are you hearing this radio clear? Because I’m saying what I need to say but something’s not happening.”
Controller: “American 1479, you said ‘cleared for the approach,’ I need the runway assignment, which is runway 26, not 25L or 25R. You’re cleared visual approach runway 26, and you’re not reading that back correctly.”
Pilot: “Cleared for the visual approach to runway 26, American 1479.”
Controller: “American 1479, if you need a phone number, you can call in and we can talk about the case, but you misread the last three transmissions without a callsign and without a runway assignment. You need a phone number?”
Pilot: “I am not gonna waste my time.”

At this point the American flight is handed over to the tower, and the same pilot comes in with even more of an attitude:

Pilot: “Phoenix tower, American 1479, visual runway 26.” (he reads the callsign intentionally very slowly and with an attitude)
Controller: “American 1479, Phoenix tower, runway 26, cleared to land.”
Pilot: “Cleared to land runway 26, American 1479.”
Controller: “Are you okay? You seem very hostile.”

Below you can hear the interaction. You absolutely should listen, so you can understand just how hostile the pilot’s tone was, all while the air traffic controllers are surprisingly patient.

What’s this American Airlines pilot’s deal?

Hey, maybe this guy was just having an off day. The thing is, sometimes pilots don’t perform at their best, but they’re usually sheepish about it. What’s bizarre about this pilot is that he’s both not performing his job correctly, and has a God complex at the same time, thinking he can do no wrong.

If you ask any pilot or air traffic controller whether you have to read back your callsign or a runway assignment, they’d say “of course you do.” Yet somehow this guy makes mistake after mistake, but accepts no responsibility for it.

I don’t get it. He claims he’s “saying what [he] needs to say.” So does he really not think it’s necessary to read back runway assignments or callsigns? If so, I think it might be time for him to go to recurrent training, so he can brush up on the basics.

Then there’s the completely bizarre aggression with which he approaches a second air traffic controller, which makes you wonder what this guy’s deal is. The controller immediately wonders if the guy is okay and why he’s so hostile.

Honestly, this guy doesn’t sound like someone who you’d want at the controls of a plane when there’s an emergency, in terms of his ability to logically analyze a situation and stay calm.

Also, I can’t help but wonder what the dynamic was like in the cockpit during all of this. It’s interesting how they just keep switching the communications back and forth between the two pilots. I assume at first they switched communications because one pilot was calmer than the other, but then they go back to the original guy, and he’s just as angry?

Bottom line

An American Airlines pilot seemed to struggle with air traffic control communication. He didn’t read back the callsign or runway assignments, which are absolute necessities. When he was called out on it, he claimed he did nothing wrong, and that he’s not looking to waste his time. But then he gets super aggressive with the remainder of his communication.

We all have bad days, but this guy needs some retraining. It’s one thing to have a sloppy day, it’s another thing to claim you’re doing nothing wrong, get aggressive, and shift blame.

What do you make of this interaction between an American pilot and air traffic controller?

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  1. ricardocabesa Guest

    Sounds like an obnoxious Aussie p****.

  2. RF Diamond

    The pilot should be fined and demoted.

  3. Malcolm Guest

    It's the Trump effect. A nation of maladjusted man childs. Everyone's a wise ass who has to show he can dump on anyone, anytime, anywhere just to work off their frustration. Civility and competence are out of fashion. Look at Musk, look at Boeing. What a sad country of career losers the US has become.

    1. stogieguy7 Gold

      I must agree! For example, people who are so fixated with their illogical hatred for the man that they try to take any story - about any random thing - and make about their own serious case of Trump Derangement Syndrome.

    2. Malcolm Guest

      Call it what you like, Trump is a symptom of a cultural malaise. Toxic white male entitlement syndrome. Obnoxious white men who think they can do and say anything and get way with it, even at the cost of peoples' lives: Jan 6, 737 Max....

      I find it hard to imagine this incident happening in any other country.

      And "illogical" is people who vote for a fraudster who tried to steal an election and incite a violent overthrow of the constitution. USA!

    3. Bob Moran Guest

      Its amazing that you can tell a person's skin color from the sound of their voice. That's considered linguistic profiling, which under the EEOC is considered racist and illegal. Judging someone on the sound of their speech is also a microaggression. Way to be a tolerant liberal!

      Pot, kettle calling.

    4. Malcolm Guest

      You don't need to identify their voice to know he's white, that's why it's called white privilege. A non-white person would never dare because, they couldn't get away with it. A white man can face 91 criminal charges and still run for president. If he was black, they'd have thrown the key away. But hey, don't let that stop you playing the victim, white boy. Rights for whites!

    5. Mark Christopher Guest

      I think you are getting upset all your entitlement programs are going bye bye. Affirmative action last year being overturned by Supreme Court and now many of the DEI handouts are slowly going away since they are at their core discrimatory. Going to have to stand on your own two feet here soon.

    6. Cliff Guest

      But people like you have no problem with corporate welfare (entitlement), such as companies avoiding taxes by establishing a presence in foreign countries.

    7. Malcolm Guest

      First of all I'm white, so it's not "my entitlement programs" but giving people opportunities who are excluded by institutional prejudice and racism, of which your ignorant post is a good example. The same thing that keeps millions more blacks in jail or victims of police violence.

      I see that even Boeing's disaster is being blamed on "DEI" and affirmative action when there isn't a black person in sight on the Boeing board. A...

      First of all I'm white, so it's not "my entitlement programs" but giving people opportunities who are excluded by institutional prejudice and racism, of which your ignorant post is a good example. The same thing that keeps millions more blacks in jail or victims of police violence.

      I see that even Boeing's disaster is being blamed on "DEI" and affirmative action when there isn't a black person in sight on the Boeing board. A company that's been driven into the ground by a succession of entitled white CEOs from the Neutron Jack school of GE management and financial engineering, putting profit before people's lives: Stonecipher, McNerny, Macallister, Calhoun. All benfeciaries of white entitlement programs. Jack Welch the destroyer of corporate America who ended his days spouting anti-Obama conspiracy theories and supporting Donald Trump, another failed CEO and beneficiary of infinite largesse to failed entitled, white men. Toxic white masculinity kills and this incident was another near miss and all you can talk about is DEI!

      Can I suggest you set up a collection for all those poor, misunderstood, destitute fake white billionaires who'e pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps, but just don't get the credit and respect they deserve... Trump, Ackman, Musk...you know their names.

  4. Miami305 Member

    AA pilot was completely wrong, acting childish, until...

    Controller: “Are you okay? You seem very hostile.”

    COMPLETELY inappropriate. And childish.

    Lives are at stake. Just let him land. File a report.

    1. stogieguy7 Gold

      The first controller sounded like a bit of an ass as well. Doesn't excuse the pilot's reaction, but it surely contributed to it.

  5. Fordamist LeDearn Guest

    seems every week or so we have a post about AA FA's ... not being terribly friendly ... one recollection in the comments about a prior event much like this, and this. The anger extends to the cockpit ...

  6. FlyerDon Guest

    So, do we hope that was the captain or the f/o?

  7. JustSaying Guest

    Well it is El Paso to Phoenix so it’s probably at the bottom of the food chain for American. He’s just being the bus driver that he is! And they wonder why we prefer to drive our Tesla instead of being with them?

    1. BenjaminKohl Gold

      How did you manage to turn this story into a proclomation of your Tesla ownership lol

  8. Mike Guest

    This pilot was wrong. He even checked on the frequenzy wrong by omitting his altitude in his first call to the new controller (approach). Unless he shows that attitude with the controller when he calls on the phone, he won't get violated just told not to do it again.

    (Retired airline Captain with over 40 years of aviation experience)

  9. Klaus_S New Member

    Just wondering: what is so special about runway 26? Why do they both (AA and UA) prefer runway 26 over the other two runways.
    And besides: why is it called runway 26 while the others are called 25l and 25r? They all show in the same direction, don’t they?

    1. DC Guest

      Landing on RWY 26 in Phoenix makes for a shorter taxi to the gate.

    2. BenjaminKohl Gold

      Airports are allowed to name parallel runways a different 10 degree if they run out of L/R/C or don't want to use it all. And both UA and AA have a shorter taxi (and in UAs case maybe departure) to the north runway, 29, while airlines like Delta and SOuthwest have a shorter taxi to the south runways.

  10. Dan77W Guest

    Sounds like an Ozzie expat that’s been here for awhile, almost lost the accent but not quite. From my flying with them they are extremely passive aggressive and highly opinionated….. however conversely they are sticklers for radio work, pedantic at procedure and highly professional … apparently the last three faded away but he still has the first two… bad combo

  11. Goforride Guest

    This is what the world is coming to. Ten year olds won't know any differently.

  12. Michael Guest

    Based on the pilot’s reaction, this is not the first nor the last time this sloppiness has happened, and I hope for everyone’s safety that American actually investigates and administers corrective action.

    Aviation safety operates under the assumption that everyone is trying their hardest to be professional and follow SOP so that when inevitable human error occurs, it’s caught with our redundant safety backups. When there’s willful neglect of the most basic safety redundancies,...

    Based on the pilot’s reaction, this is not the first nor the last time this sloppiness has happened, and I hope for everyone’s safety that American actually investigates and administers corrective action.

    Aviation safety operates under the assumption that everyone is trying their hardest to be professional and follow SOP so that when inevitable human error occurs, it’s caught with our redundant safety backups. When there’s willful neglect of the most basic safety redundancies, in this case readbacks and callsigns, you’re 90% of the Swiss cheese towards an accident. All it takes is one tired ATC not realizing that AA misheard a runway because it was never read back for there to be a catastrophic accident

  13. RanDog Guest

    The full call sign and runway assignment readbacks are “relatively” new (last 20 years), but are a reasonable and critically necessary measure to ensure “correct surface/correct aircraft” happens. Yes, they require a few more words, but as a 40-year Captain for a major airline, I welcome the backup. Most professional pilots will agree with me.

  14. Ken Guest

    I don't have much respect for many pilots these days. Not well educated dudes get a license and act like they can do whatever they want. Especially booting off people from their airplane without even listening to what the pax say. Giving power to some people turns them into an awful person.

    1. Maja Seethemore Guest

      Absolutely abhorrent response. Yes this pilot was unprofessional and I agree that AA should look into what his deal is. But to say you don't have respect for not just pilots, but "uneducated" people is similar to how this pilot acted. Both of you think you're better than everyone else because of your "education". Get a grip.

    2. Dan Guest

      If you are 40yo white male and decided to become a pilot. You are likely a dumb ass. A lucky one though :-).

    3. jedipenguin Guest

      The sooner airplanes can fly by themselves without any human assistance the better off we'd be. D

    4. Ole Guest

      Actually, they don’t change. Their true selves come out.

  15. Matt B Guest

    Since this article is about correct phraseology, I will point out that UAL278 did not read back the runway assignment.

  16. CHRIS Guest

    But I thought they were being paid outrageous sums of money for their "professionalism"? They'll all be gone in 25 years. AI will at least read back the callsign without any attitude.

    1. Refo Guest

      Hi Chris,
      I'm not sure why you are reveling in many people losing their jobs to AI. What this guy did was uncalled for. But to be happy about massive job loss? Also uncalled for. I guarantee you whenever AI takes the jobs of airline personel, most of the country will 1) follow quickly or 2) have already had their jobs taken.

    2. CHRIS Guest

      These arrogant clowns are making at least a quarter of a million dollars per year. Yes, automation can absolutely take that job.

  17. seanp78 Member

    Total child. I have no doubt he's a senior pilot and probably very skilled - but that was totally uncalled for. It's not unreasonable to expect the runway ID to be repeated on final (visual) approach ;)

    1. atcsundevil Member

      Something worth noting is that controllers aren't being pedantic just for fun, it's a requirement. Hearback/readback errors are drilled into trainee controllers practically from day one at the academy, because it's such an important safety component to ensure accuracy. Things like this are so easy for a facility to get dinged on for internal and external compliance verifications, so they become frequent topics in safety briefings that controllers receive. If a controller issues a control...

      Something worth noting is that controllers aren't being pedantic just for fun, it's a requirement. Hearback/readback errors are drilled into trainee controllers practically from day one at the academy, because it's such an important safety component to ensure accuracy. Things like this are so easy for a facility to get dinged on for internal and external compliance verifications, so they become frequent topics in safety briefings that controllers receive. If a controller issues a control instruction and it's read back correctly but executed incorrectly, then it's a pilot deviation; if a controller issues a control instruction and it's read back incorrectly, then it's on the controller. Pilots and controllers are expected to operate with accuracy, and fortunately 99.5% of pilots and controllers understand that. The other 0.5% get the dad voice from me because they don't want to play by the same rules as everyone else. We all get paid a lot of money to do these jobs, because people trust us to do our jobs safely and correctly. For anyone (on either side of the mic) to give this sort of attitude is absolutely unprofessional and unnecessary, especially when he's so clearly being correctly called out for not adhering to standard phraseology. I've never had a reaction from a pilot like this, and frankly if I did, I would address it the exact same way as this controller. Pilots get two freebies from me before they get the dad voice, and that's exactly what happened here.

  18. Jim Guest

    Though I probably couldn't find it, I recall an ATC recording a year or two ago of an AA pilot with similar difficulty remembering to repeat his callsign. In that case, his response was to say "American Airlines Flight Number xxxx" on every subsequent interaction.

    Wonder if it's the same guy...

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Mike Guest

This pilot was wrong. He even checked on the frequenzy wrong by omitting his altitude in his first call to the new controller (approach). Unless he shows that attitude with the controller when he calls on the phone, he won't get violated just told not to do it again. (Retired airline Captain with over 40 years of aviation experience)

4
Michael Guest

Based on the pilot’s reaction, this is not the first nor the last time this sloppiness has happened, and I hope for everyone’s safety that American actually investigates and administers corrective action. Aviation safety operates under the assumption that everyone is trying their hardest to be professional and follow SOP so that when inevitable human error occurs, it’s caught with our redundant safety backups. When there’s willful neglect of the most basic safety redundancies, in this case readbacks and callsigns, you’re 90% of the Swiss cheese towards an accident. All it takes is one tired ATC not realizing that AA misheard a runway because it was never read back for there to be a catastrophic accident

4
BenjaminKohl Gold

How did you manage to turn this story into a proclomation of your Tesla ownership lol

3
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