Aviation News

May 7, 2010

American Airlines Pilot Argues with Control Tower, Makes Emergency Landing at JFK

American's 767-300 N372AA taxis with the LAX control tower and Raytheon building in the background.

A snippity exchange between the crew of an American Airlines 767 and the Kennedy Airport control tower on Wednesday concluded when the plane made an emergency landing.

On May 5th, American Airlines Flight 2 from LAX was cleared to land on JFK‘s Runway 22L when the tower offered a wind update: “Wind now 3-2-0 at 2-3, gusting to 3-5.”

A few seconds later, one of the pilots responds, “American 2, we can’t land on 2-2. We’re breaking off approach, and if you don’t give us to, uhh, runway, uhh, 3-1-Right we’re going to declare an emergency.”

Tower: “Alright I will pass it along, fly runway heading for now.”

AA 2 heavy: “Okay, we’re declaring emergency, we’re gonna land 3-1-right. We’re going to the left and then coming around.”

Tower: “American 2 heavy, just fly runway heading.”

AA 2 heavy: “Clear the area.”

Tower: “You say you’re declaring emergency?”

AA 2 heavy: “Three times I’ve told you that. Three times we’re declaring an emergency.”

Tower: “Okay, I just want to verify, I know you said if you didn’t get 31-right you have to declare an emergency. Okay, understand, fly runway heading and I gotta get you a turn!”

Tower: “Fly heading 1-8-0”

AA 2 heavy: “American 2 heavy, we are turning around to the left here and landing on 3-1. Remove everybody from our way. We’ve declared an emergency. We’re on a visual.”

Tower: “Alright, American 2 heavy, cleared to land, 3-1-right, 3-1-0 2-4 gusting to 3-4.”

AA 2 heavy: “Cleared to land, runway 3-1-right, American 2 heavy.”

Reportedly beyond the crosswind limits of the 767-200 and too low on fuel to perform a new approach, the crew of the jet may have had no choice but to land immediately. JFK has been using its 4/22 runways during crosswind conditions more frequently since the March closure of runway 13R/31L for construction.

No word if the FAA or American Airlines is investigating the incident.

Audio clip thanks to our good friends at LiveATC.net.



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  • Mark

    Way to go Crew!!
    limits on a 767 is 30 knots cross wind. Way to observe the limits and land safely.
    Always putting safety ahead of what makes ATC life easier.
    Know your airplane, Know your limits.
    Otherwise the Monday Morning Quarterbacks will hang you when something goes wrong!

    • John

      Gusts don't count in calculating the crosswind.

      • Anonymous

        Gusts may not count. But what if at the point of touchdown, the gust exceeded the crosswind component? Surely ATC would know that if the wind is at 90 degrees to the runway, with a level as strong as it was before the gusts, that some aircraft are going to be close to limits. The AA captain said that the localiser wasn’t transmitting for 22. What if AA’s operating procedures state that landing in high crosswinds with non-functional localisers isn’t allowed? What if he’d continued, bought the farm, then the NTSB report had discovered it was pilot error because of several factors? Who would be the one to shoulder the blame then?

        I’ve heard the controller a few times on videos posted on YouTube. He seems to have two jobs: one as a controller at JFK and one as an entertainer on YouTube. I’m not sure which one he takes most pride in.

  • Mark

    Way to go Crew!!
    limits on a 767 is 30 knots cross wind. Way to observe the limits and land safely.
    Always putting safety ahead of what makes ATC life easier.
    Know your airplane, Know your limits.
    Otherwise the Monday Morning Quarterbacks will hang you when something goes wrong!

    • John

      Gusts don't count in calculating the crosswind.

  • I think the controller was just taking a bit longer than the crew expected. They should have given the controller a time frame, like "we need 31L 60 seconds or we're going to declare an emergency."

  • I think the controller was just taking a bit longer than the crew expected. They should have given the controller a time frame, like "we need 31L 60 seconds or we're going to declare an emergency."

  • I think the controller was just taking a bit longer than the crew expected. They should have given the controller a time frame, like "we need 31L 60 seconds or we're going to declare an emergency."

  • I think the controller was just taking a bit longer than the crew expected. They should have given the controller a time frame, like "we need 31L 60 seconds or we're going to declare an emergency."

  • Low on fuel?

  • Low on fuel?

  • joedeon

    We won't know for sure until all the facts are in, but it seems like mistakes were made on both sides here from what I can tell from this audio:

    1) If AA 2 was so low on fuel that they needed an immediate landing, then they were already "emergency fuel", even before they were cleared to land. They should have declared it much earlier.

    2) Once AA2 said they were declaring an emergency, the controller should not have questioned him. He should have cleared the runway for him right away unless there was another emergency aircraft in the area. It was pretty clear that AA 2 declared it, but it seems the controller either didn't hear, or disregarded it.

    • Clearly the phraseology if you don't .. we will declare an emergency – causes uncertainty. There also was an ILS issue apparently for both AA2 and the Southwest (Cactus) flight – or did I hear that wrong?

      For a moment, there was a ghost of Avianca 52 moment, with the uncertainty over the emergency declaration and the presumption that there is a fuel state issue.

      • Cactus = US Airways (they use America West's old callsign)

      • Ray DeForge

        It would be interesting to know what the fuel state (in minutes) was after shutdown. If it was less than 45 minutes, the emergency would have been valid, and the airline would have violated the minimum reserve requirements under Parts 91 & 121, baring any valid airborne delays.

    • There is a simple way to declare an emergency… Mayday Mayday Mayday. 

      Threatening to declare an emergency if you don’t get what you want is what caused the confusion and reading the transcript above the pilot was being an arse!

      • I am of the opinion that you are 100% correct.  He “Threatened” to declare an emergency if he didn’t get the runway he wanted.  ATC then told the pilot “Alright, I will pass it along.  Just fly runway heading for now”, because the pilot had NOT declared an emergency.  He said he “would” (future tense) if he didn’t get 31R.  I”m not a pilot nor am I an ATC. I am but a mere passenger in your planes. But,  I am impartial.   And from reading the transcript, the first time the word  “emergency”
        was ever used, it was not a declaration, but a warning/threat.  I also have to agree with those who say this pilot could not pick and choose when and where to land.  He is not the only plane involved here.  Is it common practice to jeapordize the lives of many to save the lives of a few?  I think that is a reasonable question.  Common sense tells me that it would take more than a minute to make sure all other planes (plural) were out of harms way before this one (singular) plane chose where to plant himself.   Now, when I drive my car, I have ALWAYS been able to see when my fuel was running low and I would stop and put some more in before I hit empty, just in case I got stuck in traffic.  I wouldn’t want to run out sitting in the middle of the freeway.   Now one would think that the pilots, who are responsible for 150+ lives on any given flight, would pay a little extra attention to his fuel gage and based on what he sees,  would act accordingly.
         And written above, in the comments, was the following:
          “If they did not have to go around then they would have been fine and no emergency or minimum fuel declaration would have been need or necessary”.

        Please correct me if I’m wrong (and I’m sure there will be more than a few), but doesn’t this go back to the original argument that  this pilot cannot pick and choose where he decides to land?   In the same breath you can ask this question:
        If they had kept an eye on the fuel and notified the ATC that they were beginning to run low on fuel,  allowing him ample time to redirect air and ground traffic, there would have been no need to go around as they would have been given the runway they requested?
          Is it standard procedure to allow just enough fuel for the planes to get from point A to point B without taking into consideration, any delay that could eat up that fuel, before the plane gets to point B? 

         As a passenger, I must say that the comments have been quite enlightning. But,  I have to side with the ATC.  And I also have to pray to God that a pilot who fails to check his fuel and act accordingly,  is not allowed to pick and choose where to land just because he “might” run out of fuel.   Because I might just be sitting on or very near that runway, along with a couple other planes lined up,  waiting to take off.    Because maybe, just maybe, we can’t get out of the way in time.   It may seem unlikely to you, but from where I sit, apparently anything is possible.

  • joedeon

    We won't know for sure until all the facts are in, but it seems like mistakes were made on both sides here from what I can tell from this audio:

    1) If AA 2 was so low on fuel that they needed an immediate landing, then they were already "emergency fuel", even before they were cleared to land. They should have declared it much earlier.

    2) Once AA2 said they were declaring an emergency, the controller should not have questioned him. He should have cleared the runway for him right away unless there was another emergency aircraft in the area. It was pretty clear that AA 2 declared it, but it seems the controller either didn't hear, or disregarded it.

    • Clearly the phraseology if you don't .. we will declare an emergency – causes uncertainty. There also was an ILS issue apparently for both AA2 and the Southwest (Cactus) flight – or did I hear that wrong?

      For a moment, there was a ghost of Avianca 52 moment, with the uncertainty over the emergency declaration and the presumption that there is a fuel state issue.

      • Cactus = US Airways (they use America West's old callsign)

  • Bob

    To Mark: What are you talking about "putting safety ahead of what makes ATC life easier?" They were shooting staggered approaches at JFK (22L and 31R) and a plane can't simply make a turn and land on a different runway than the one he was assigned when he has a jet four miles in trail for the same runway he was assigned especially when their projected flight paths cross without a lot of coordination being done.

    If the American was so low on fuel that they couldn't take another approach, they would've already had declared an emergency because of their low fuel level. I don't believe that was the case at all. The American couldn't land 22L because of the wind so they were trying to push and shove their way to 31R without having to do around and do another approach. I wonder what the state of the emergency was… Probably not wanting to be vectored for another approach (15-30 more minutes of flying time)…

  • Bob

    To Mark: What are you talking about "putting safety ahead of what makes ATC life easier?" They were shooting staggered approaches at JFK (22L and 31R) and a plane can't simply make a turn and land on a different runway than the one he was assigned when he has a jet four miles in trail for the same runway he was assigned especially when their projected flight paths cross without a lot of coordination being done.

    If the American was so low on fuel that they couldn't take another approach, they would've already had declared an emergency because of their low fuel level. I don't believe that was the case at all. The American couldn't land 22L because of the wind so they were trying to push and shove their way to 31R without having to do around and do another approach. I wonder what the state of the emergency was… Probably not wanting to be vectored for another approach (15-30 more minutes of flying time)…

  • Tango

    As an air traffic controller I can tell you that because an aircraft declares and emergency it does not mean that it has the right to do what it wishes. There are other aircraft in the sky and on the ground. As a poster said before, the pilot should have informed the controller (approach control would have been the better option, as opposed to the aerodrome/tower controller who is not permitted to sequence aircraft) that he was fuel critical. I could tell from the sound of his voice that this pilot was panicking. His voice is trembling. He screwed up big time here because he allowed the fuel to get that low that he was unable to make his alternate? Heads will roll for sure. I can't see where the controller went wrong. If a pilot is trying to do contrary to what is being instructed explanations have to be quick and clear, something that the pilot failed at. I deal with pilots who are morons every day so I can tell you, they are not all heroes like Sully, and they are not all pioneers like Doolittle. Some of them are just plain stupid.

    • Ben Lucas

      If you are truly an ATC I would suggest you revisit your studies.

      FAR 91/3 B

      6-1-1. Pilot Responsibility and Authority

      a. The pilot-in-command of an aircraft is directly responsible for and is the final authority as to the operation of that aircraft. In an emergency requiring immediate action, the pilot-in-command may deviate from any rule in 14 CFR Part 91, Subpart A, General, and Subpart B, Flight Rules, to the extent required to meet that emergency.

      Yes that means a pilot do what is necessary to handle the situation. Judgement comes later on whether that was the right thing to do, including ignoring ATC instructions.

  • Tango

    As an air traffic controller I can tell you that because an aircraft declares and emergency it does not mean that it has the right to do what it wishes. There are other aircraft in the sky and on the ground. As a poster said before, the pilot should have informed the controller (approach control would have been the better option, as opposed to the aerodrome/tower controller who is not permitted to sequence aircraft) that he was fuel critical. I could tell from the sound of his voice that this pilot was panicking. His voice is trembling. He screwed up big time here because he allowed the fuel to get that low that he was unable to make his alternate? Heads will roll for sure. I can't see where the controller went wrong. If a pilot is trying to do contrary to what is being instructed explanations have to be quick and clear, something that the pilot failed at. I deal with pilots who are morons every day so I can tell you, they are not all heroes like Sully, and they are not all pioneers like Doolittle. Some of them are just plain stupid.

  • Tango Down

    Tango,

    Who has final authority for the safety of the flight? The pilot. The American pilot declared an emergency and landed simple as that. Error chains cause accidents and pilots are trained to recognize when errors chains are starting to form. For example, when the ILS is not working, the winds exceed the max demonstrated crosswind component of the aircraft, and the controllers working converging approaches. What would have happened if they flew "runway heading" and an aircraft on approach for 31 had to go missed? Midair collision. The pilot recognized this threat and chose not to fly over airport, instead entering a downwind for 31R and breaking this error chain.

    Also, the pilot was not panicking in the least. Pilots are told to aviate, navigate, then last communicate. A panicking pilot would have done exactly what ATC said (there are plenty examples on youtube of this happening resulting in fatalities).

    Where did the controller go wrong? When an emergency is declared it is the controllers responsibility to clear traffic. Not try to justify to the emergency aircraft why they had to repeat themselves 3 separate times then after all that tell them to "fly heading 180" forcing the pilots to declare the emergency a fourth time.

    Lastly, calling pilots morons is absolutely ridiculous. Pilots are flying an airplane! While controllers are sitting in a room making sure the dots don't get too close to each other. The controllers work for the pilots, not the other way around. Just cause the pilot didn't have enough time to sit there a paint a picture for the controller as to why they were doing what they were doing doesn't make it less valid. Have you ever flown a 767? Its not like driving a car or even flying a Cessna 172 for that matter. They had a valid reason for doing what they did and just cause you don't know what the reason was doesn't make it less valid.

    P.S. A pilot does not have to declare a fuel emergency until they reach a point when any delay will cause them to not have enough fuel to reach their destination. If they did not have to go around then they would have been fine and no emergency or minimum fuel declaration would have been need or necessary. Having to go missed a JFK and the re-sequencing that goes with it would easily have caused them to not have enough fuel. Thus justifying the emergency.

  • Tango Down

    Tango,

    Who has final authority for the safety of the flight? The pilot. The American pilot declared an emergency and landed simple as that. Error chains cause accidents and pilots are trained to recognize when errors chains are starting to form. For example, when the ILS is not working, the winds exceed the max demonstrated crosswind component of the aircraft, and the controllers working converging approaches. What would have happened if they flew "runway heading" and an aircraft on approach for 31 had to go missed? Midair collision. The pilot recognized this threat and chose not to fly over airport, instead entering a downwind for 31R and breaking this error chain.

    Also, the pilot was not panicking in the least. Pilots are told to aviate, navigate, then last communicate. A panicking pilot would have done exactly what ATC said (there are plenty examples on youtube of this happening resulting in fatalities).

    Where did the controller go wrong? When an emergency is declared it is the controllers responsibility to clear traffic. Not try to justify to the emergency aircraft why they had to repeat themselves 3 separate times then after all that tell them to "fly heading 180" forcing the pilots to declare the emergency a fourth time.

    Lastly, calling pilots morons is absolutely ridiculous. Pilots are flying an airplane! While controllers are sitting in a room making sure the dots don't get too close to each other. The controllers work for the pilots, not the other way around. Just cause the pilot didn't have enough time to sit there a paint a picture for the controller as to why they were doing what they were doing doesn't make it less valid. Have you ever flown a 767? Its not like driving a car or even flying a Cessna 172 for that matter. They had a valid reason for doing what they did and just cause you don't know what the reason was doesn't make it less valid.

    P.S. A pilot does not have to declare a fuel emergency until they reach a point when any delay will cause them to not have enough fuel to reach their destination. If they did not have to go around then they would have been fine and no emergency or minimum fuel declaration would have been need or necessary. Having to go missed a JFK and the re-sequencing that goes with it would easily have caused them to not have enough fuel. Thus justifying the emergency.

  • Justin

    Being a pilot I have to side with the captain here… aviate, navigate, communicate. A pilot should disobey a command from ATC if it poses a risk to the aircraft – ATC has to live with this decision. There should be no second guessing by anyones part.

    To even it out though,… pilots are required to have at least 45 minutes reserve after landing. Since this was a heavy I’m guessing the flight was longer than four hours. If the headwinds were so bad that it increased the flying time beyond these limits they should have diverted when realizing this… which they should have realized long before approach into JFK.

    • Just FYI. For just basic IFR flight. The rule for fuel is Enough to fly to the destination and accommodate for any foreseen delays. Fly too the destination. Conduct an approach and missed approach a flight to the alternate. Then another approach and missed approach. Then fly for a period of 45 min. As for 705 operations i would assume it would be similar to this.

  • Justin

    Being a pilot I have to side with the captain here… aviate, navigate, communicate. A pilot should disobey a command from ATC if it poses a risk to the aircraft – ATC has to live with this decision. There should be no second guessing by anyones part.

    To even it out though,… pilots are required to have at least 45 minutes reserve after landing. Since this was a heavy I’m guessing the flight was longer than four hours. If the headwinds were so bad that it increased the flying time beyond these limits they should have diverted when realizing this… which they should have realized long before approach into JFK.

  • Guest

    Tango…

    Your Chain theory is absurd, the wind should have been known prior to beginning the approach and Runway 31 requested, and the staggered approaches what does that have to do with anything, runway heading for runway 22 is 220 and 31 is 310, where is the midair, if anything swinging around to 31 caused more of a danger for collision. What is this business about having just enough fuel to land and not declaring minimum fuel or emergency fuel? What if weather was a factor instead of the wind, pilots are required to divert before it gets to this point.

    Bottom line is the pilot messed up and there is no way of getting around that.

  • Guest

    Tango…

    Your Chain theory is absurd, the wind should have been known prior to beginning the approach and Runway 31 requested, and the staggered approaches what does that have to do with anything, runway heading for runway 22 is 220 and 31 is 310, where is the midair, if anything swinging around to 31 caused more of a danger for collision. What is this business about having just enough fuel to land and not declaring minimum fuel or emergency fuel? What if weather was a factor instead of the wind, pilots are required to divert before it gets to this point.

    Bottom line is the pilot messed up and there is no way of getting around that.

  • Charlie

    To Justin and Guest,
    What crap are you two talking?
    There are two things you two need to carefully think about before speaking again.
    1. ATIS gives you a forecast for the hour on the hour, how was the pilot to know the weather/winds would not have been suitable for him? Even if there was a dramatic change in the weather and they were updating the ATIS info, how would he have known? Considering he would have listened to the ATIS before speaking to the tower.
    2.You should only talk when you know the facts, speculation gets you know where except to rumors. ( this goes specifically for guest).. You can't be judgemental if you don't know anything for sure.

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  • Anonymous

    This story reminds me of a story I heard a few years ago from a group of flight test engineers and test pilots in WIchita, Kansas. If memory serves me correctly, it was an AA pilot involved.

    It seems that one of their captains landing at ICT flaty refused ATC instructions to break off an approach and go around, to give way to a Learjet undergoing a flight test procedure intended to prove its capability of landing safely on a single engine. ATC had no choice but to order the Learjet test pilot to break off to execute a single-engine climb out to go around for a second shot at the test. Aware of the full facts of the situation, ATC acted responsibly.

    Test pilots don’t whine. No complaint was ever registered with AA over this. But while AA was never informed of it, everyone in the flight test community (I heard about this because I know some people in the Wichita Chapter of the Society of Flight Test Engineers) feels disdain for the jerk AA captain involved (and for the AIrline that put him up there).

  • Anonymous

    Tango,
     
    Yes, a pilot has not only the right, but the responsibility to do whatever is necessary to ensure the safety of the aircraft, crew and passengers. This includes violating FARs as the pilot deems necessary. The pilot SHOULD NOT have to declare an emergency FOUR TIMES! Is the controller brain dead, OR WHAT!! The controller should not question the nature of the emergency, but should clear all other traffic as fast as humanly possible.
     
    Airline pilots generally do not decide how much fuel to carry: this is usually done by corporate because most pilots will carry more fuel than necessary.
     
     
     

  • Anonymous

    Something pilots (and the general public) need to realize is that when an aircraft declares an emergency, we ATC can’t just flip a switch and say “Okay, everybody get out of their way.” Especially at a place like JFK, with easily 30+ aircraft in movement on the ground and in the immediate airspace, there’s a LOT of communication involved. There’s also necessary coordination with approach, departure, ground, ramp, emergency personnel, the airline, and others. It all takes time, and has to follow specific procedures for safety, clarity and legal reasons.

    The thing that makes it all work best, for both pilots and controllers, is clarity. Professional pilots and controllers both ascribe to precise phraseology to communicate exactly what information needs to be passed along in as few words as possible. While some might accuse me of bias towards the controller because it’s my profession, the initial blame here lies with the AA pilot. I’m a private pilot myself and know well the prioritizing of aviate, navigate, and communicate, but when he did choose to communicate, it was unclear what was happening. You don’t tell a tower that you’re choosing a different runway and if they don’t give it to you, you’re declaring an emergency. It’s not your runway, and you’re not the only plane in the air. If there’s something going on that requires coordination with the people directing the show, you need to make sure you’ve informed them as early and as clearly as possible that there’s a problem. When planes land on busy crossing runways without proper coordination, they hit each other. Don’t give attitude to the guy in the tower keeping that from happening.

    There seems to be some sort of misunderstanding that by telling the plane to fly runway heading, he was ignoring the emergency call, as unclear as it was. He was keeping the American clear of traffic while determining the nature of his emergency and the best course of action. Without knowing what the problem was, nor the specific intentions of the aircraft, the controller was not in a position to determine what needed to happen next and how to protect the rest of the people flying in his sky. “We’re turning to the left” is far too vague. It effectively requires ATC to immediately protect 180 degrees of sky at thousands of feet for several miles. There could easily be a large handful of aircraft in that area, and they can’t just hold in mid-air or or turn on a dime to move out of the way. That the pilot had time to include smartass remarks afterward shows that he had enough opportunity to be more specific as to the nature of the issue and more exact intentions.

    Someone in the comments implied that ATC prefers things easy instead of safe. What a foolish thing to say. Our profession exists to keep aircraft safe. That’s our sole purpose. The vast majority of pilots seem to realize and appreciate that, just as we realize and appreciate that they are the ones in direct control over their individual aircraft and the safety of those on board. We work together as a team. Just remember: you’re not the only ones up there in the sky. You can’t see what we can. Be clear and concise about what’s going on, and we’ll do literally everything in our power to keep you safe.

    • Well, I would just like to point out that the controller tried to vector a 767 heavy into a 30 kt crosswind instead of declaring a wind-shift, and vectoring the aircraft onto the runway that is *almost perfectly* lined up with the wind.

  • Boeing 737 or Cessna 172 pilot – it’s all the same.  If you know already know you are low on fuel and below the legal reserves (for whatever reason), then it’s your RESPONSIBILITY as PIC (Pilot in COMMAND) to notify the control tower ASAP.  ATC should then prioritise your landing over other aircraft in the area. This is why we have legal reserves for scenarios when you are asked to orbit the control zone by the tower in the case of (eg.) when another aircraft needs to land immediately.

    It would appear that this AA capitan decided to wait until he was on final to decide to inform ATC of his fuel emergency.  Poor decision indeed.   From the outside, this seems to be the cause of the stress between the pilot and tower. 

    Whilst the tower is obliged and happy to immediately help any aircraft in distress, the capt of the AA flight also needs to take responsibility as well.  The man in the tower cannot waive a magic wand to magically move all aircraft out of harms way while this AA captain lands his aeroplane at the runway of his need/choice.

    This time no one got hurt and no aircraft were damaged, however it’s the responsibility of any P.I.C. of any aeroplane to notify ATC of any emergency as far in advance as possible.    This includes fuel problems or mechanical/engine problems. 

    As a private pilot, I am always thankful for ATC helping me out even if it comes down to a passenger of mine being ill, possible mechanical issues whilst in flight or myself not feeling well as the PIC (eg. asking for an expedited approach/clearance to land). 

    Whilst the responsibility and safety of the aeroplane, crew and passengers rests on the shoulders of the PIC, overall aviation safety is a combined effort between all pilots, aircraft mechanics and ATCs everywhere.

  • The pilot may have had a predisposition that JFK controllers are aggressive and this added to his stress level.

    One of the last things the flight engineer said on Avianca Flight 52 is “he is angry” (referring to the controller). Shortly after that they ran out of fuel.

  • When I was in the Air Force we used to hear all the time about planes that crashed because the ground controller told them to do something they couldn’t.
    Yeah the ground controller doesn’t really care that much if you crash and burn, cause it won’t cost him his life or his job. Heck he’ll probably get a few days paid leave to deal with the stress of it.
    The AA pilot was right 100 percent. The ground controller didn’t listen to what he was told. Maybe the pilot wasn’t clear enough, but he stated his needs and intentions and the controller pretty much forced him to declare an emergency.
    In short, the ground controller made a mistake, not the pilot. Yes JFK is busy, yes the airspace has a lot of aircraft in it (I’ve flown it myself), but that’s not an excuse. There are procedures and methods to deal with these things. If the Controller can’t handle it, maybe he needs to be transferred to an airport with less traffic.
    Aviation is NOT a forgiving field.

    • Ray DeForge

      The “ground controller” you refer to is called the “local controller”. A “ground controller” is responsible for aircraft and equipment on the “movement area”, with the exception of the “active runway” (the local controller’s responsibility). That means both runways (31L & 31R) belong to the “ground controller”. If runway 31 is a “fouled deck”, the ground controller will NOT relinquish his authority to the local controller.

      Once a pilot declares an emergency, it is automatically assumed that the PIC can violate any and all regulations (including compliance with ATC instructions) necessary to assure the safest outcome of the emergency. It is only necessary for the local controller to acknowledge the emergency, and pass along all pertinent information. No clearance to the emergency aircraft needs to be given, or is required under FAAINST7110.65D {the latest edition I have}

      To lump all ATC personnel as persons who don’t “really care that much if you crash and burn, cause it won’t cost him his life or his job.” is disingenuous and unprofessional.

  • Alan

    no doubt the ATC was busy at an airport like JFK, but at the end of the day, the pilot’s word is final… He/she has ultimate responsibility for the aircraft/crew/passengers (where applicable)… Under such circumstances as a “declared emergency” the job of the ATC is to facilitate whatever needs that pilot has at the given time

  • Camaro

    Interesting story

    Camaro Car Sales

  • shgrin

    Gone into NY, both places, don’t like the controllers, they are typical east coast smart a$$ attitudes and will argue with a fence post.

  • MikeWings

    The crew of this aircraft screwed up big time by getting behind the aircraft and their obligation to understand conditions at the airport prior to their arrival. They were low on fuel, then they were within a few miles of the airport and were cleared to land on 22L prior to them realizing that the crosswind component was beyond their limits (presumably) and they failed to communicate clearly to the controller. The controller only knew one element of this (their inability to land on 22L) when he gave them the standard missed approach command “fly runway heading”. This is normal and allows the local controller to sequence the aircraft safely back to the final approach. I would be interested in finding out what the result of all of this was….

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  • Guest

    As a private pilot, I am always thankful for ATC helping me out even if
    it comes down to a passenger of mine being ill, possible mechanical
    issues whilst in flight or myself not feeling well

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  • Gwendolyn Harper

    United sometimes lets people listen to the air traffic and pilot communicating. But only on occasion.

  • Foxstar Damaskeenus

    This didn’t sound like a big deal to me; this sounded like two professionals communicating when time was a critical factor.

    • Bob Shlafer

      Exactly, Foxstar. …….

      What we don’t know? The nature of/reason for the emergency which made “time” THE priority. And until we do ….. all others are merely speculating.

  • Guestandstuff

    I control an approach airspace for pilot training, and ive never dealt with an aircraft having to threaten to declare an emergency if they didnt get the runway they wanted. With that said, the process that usually happens is this… Pilot check ATIS while on approach to airport, controller tell pilot expect 22L, then switch to tower, tower clears aircraft to land, winds are blah @blah, gusts blah. Pilot realizes he cant land that runway with the winds the way they are, says he needs 31 right. controller resequences them to new runway. Somewhere between app control and tower the pilot decides, we should be able to make it no problem with this amount of fuel, no min fuel call necessary, no paperwork needed, everybody’s happy upstairs.. cool. In my opinion this is where the pilot messed up because like a bunch of comments above said, the pilot needs to have enough fuel for delays. I mean what happened if on his approach an aircraft blew a tire landing runway 31 R… then what. but thats all what if’s kinda situations. thats why those rules are in play though. My very biased opinion the pilot is wrong and the miscommunication came about 10 minutes ago when he entered arrivals pattern to 22L with the mindset of… ill just declare at the most critical point of flight to get what i want if this doesnt work out…….

  • stop crying

    Pilot didn’t have to be a bitch.