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.
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.


  • 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

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    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…….