Archive for June, 2011

What does it sound like when a pilot makes a mistake?

I have some audio here from a flight that I was on this year. I wasn’t sitting in the pointy end, but back in steerage. The mistake I am highlighting isn’t the fact that he was too high in the approach (as you will hear on the audio), but that he told us passengers that there was a plane on the runway and that’s why we needed to go around.

Click here to listen to the audio: DFW to Boston High Approach

Transcript (in case you can’t pick up the conversation):

Pilot: Tower, American 1152, We’re a little too high, we’re going to break off the approach.

Tower: American 1152, Roger, climb and maintain three thousand, fly runway heading.

Pilot: Three thousand, runway heading, American 1152.

Essentially what has happened here is the pilot realized that he had too much altitude on his descent to the runway, and could not lose that altitude safely and within the operating regulations of his airline. So he called the tower to go around. He didn’t execute a missed approach here as he was on a visual approach. The main difference is that missed approaches have a specific flight path to follow and the pilot would let the tower know he is executing a missed approach. He would then, most likely, be handed off to departure as soon as he was not a factor to other planes the tower was responsible for directing. Since he was doing this visually, the tower had him climb to an altitude of 3,000 feet and maintain the runway heading as to not affect other arrivals or departures.

Tower: American 1152, fly heading 360, maintain three thousand.

Pilot: 360, three thousand, American 1152

Tower: American 1152, turn left now heading of 290, remain this frequency.

Pilot: 290 on heading, remain this frequency, American 1152

Tower: American 1152, 360 and just, uh, remain this frequency

Pilot: 360 and this frequency, American 1152

Now this part is standard vectoring around traffic and getting us set up to do the approach again. But it appears there was a slight miscommunication, or just some quick jogging as in a very rapid fashion the heading changed by 70 degrees.

Tower: American 1152 contact Boston Approach 133.0, Good day.

Pilot: 33 0 American 1152, Good day.

At this point, the tower needs to transfer our flight back to one of the regional approach controllers so he can focus on the incoming and outgoing traffic. And if I must say, in the original, unedited audio, this controller sounds REALLY excited when he clears someone for takeoff. I get a kick out of it every time.

Pilot: American 1152 back with you about… uhh. uhhbeddebydyyuh the ILS 27.

Tower: American 1152, Boston Tower, wind 320 at 19, Traffic is a CRJ, short final, runway 27, cleared to land.

Pilot: 27, cleared to land, American 1152.

Now we land.

Tower: American 1152, right on Kilo, contact ground, point niner.

Pilot: Right on kilo, point niner, American 1152.

Then we exit the runway, and contact a ground controller on 121.9.

Afraid to fly? Don’t be. Even with all the minor issues here, you can observe MULTIPLE safety nets that keep us all safe when we fly.

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