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United Pilot Calls Out Air Traffic Control at SFO

A United pilot got angry and called out the air traffic controllers at San Francisco International Airport (SFO). The aircraft was forced to go around twice due to a lack of spacing, which created an unnecessary 30-minute delay before being allowed to land. ( More...

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jmilleratp 54
The pilot didn't get "angry." That description in this article is clickbait.
srobak 7
It always is
Greg S 38
Interesting that the tower controller and the approach controller were trying to blame each other. I blame tower.
Gloria Johns 1
Very unprofessional for that kind of blaming to happen publicly over the airwaves. Both of these guys would be on my list.
Huh? When would a better time have been? We need to call out fools ON THE SPOT in every apsect of life. If ATC needs a Safe Space he can go to the Ronald Reagan Library and ponder his emotions as ATC
Jenny Baker 35
Good on the United Airlines pilot for calling this out. Unacceptable.
tom239 29
Victor at VASAviation has the audio:
EMK69 57
This is the second such incident at SFO within a week. I’m not sure what the FAA is doing but it sure appears to be they have a bunch of rookies running the show.

I can only imagine the anxiety that could’ve been going on with some of the passengers on board the after the second go around.

Kudos to the PC for not loosing his composure

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Stephen Leftly 7
Oh enough of this "social engineering" crap. That is just dog whistle racist crap.
All air traffic controllers are highly trained.

The real problem is that the system is under stress. It is handling significantly more traffic than when it was designed. This stress reduces the buffers in the system - so more things cause a problem which in the past did not. We need a better system which handles mistakes more gracefully.
Tom Costanti 5
Not "anyone" can become an ATC. It takes skill and professioinalism. That is who is in those towers. Can they error? Sure. But "not just anyone" is in the tower.
Really? Really? Come on now, while I do not fly commercially - in my years I have seen degradation of the system. Much of the problem is how they handle seniority and how senior people end up in very light areas for an easier environment at a senior level pay.
Michael Osmers 3
“Not necessarily rookies, but probably a result of the FAA's social engineering program started in the 1990s. Anybody, anywhere, anyhow, can be an air traffic controller.” So what exactly is your evidence for that in this particular incident, you know, besides your prejudices?

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James Simms -8

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jena weber 1
Agree, we all know it, but cannot offer a voice. Same with profiling; racial/sexual profiling is NOT equivalent to criminal profiling. It is more acceptable to accept the first than to reason with the second.
Regardless, thank you to the UA pilot for documenting another miscue .

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Fact: Profiling is a valid tool when dealing with humans and social behaviors. I know, I know, folks hate the truth these days.
Roch Comeau -6
Any actual proof that this is the case, or are yo just projecting your biases on the situation? Just curious.

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Wendell Hunt 14
Wow... you really are an idiot. As a former controller I can definitely say that some of the best controllers in the world are minorities and females. Diversity has nothing to do with this issue. Also, new controllers (rookies) do not start at major airports. All controllers start at smaller airports to learn the profession and one only advances after they have proven they can do the job. This was simply a controller trying to move more planes in a shorter time. The local controller gambled, twice, and it did not work. The lesson, never line up and wait when landing the same runway and there is a fast moving jet within five miles of touch down. It's either hold short or cleared for takeoff.
Jim Mitchell 2

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Stanley Owen -6
Very biased political comment
Audrey Gleske -9
willie boyd -4
Nailed it!
Kathy McDowell 0
Orson May 23
would seem to me that an aircraft in the air should take priority over one sitting on a taxiway.
thodgdon66 3
It does. Just like balloons have priority over everybody else. This is absolutely the tower's fault and they need retraining. They need to make sure they're not causing a conflict when clearing aircraft to cross runways or line up and wait. They screwed the pooch on this - bigtime.
captjasevy 12
Calling out the tower was absolutely the correct thing to do. The problem must be addressed and fixed, and the only way to start that is by communicating about the issue. This is just good CRM. This is what makes aviation the world's safest mode of transportation.

Now the problem ("what", not "who") must be properly identified and corrected with improved policies, procedures, and training.
DonDengler 23
Applaud the pilot. !!!!!!!
ThePumpkin 21
The pilot wasn’t “angry” with his/her comments just flat out assertive as he/she should have been.
Tim Dyck 7
Yeah the headline was kinda sensationalized. The way I read it the pilot and controller were on the same page and both frustrated with the whole thing.
sparkie624 16
Tight airspace and inadequate training in ATC getting things setup... They need to fix this problem before something very bad happens.
ThePumpkin 0
Don’t worry. AI will totally take over and rid the aviation world of actual human ATC soon enough🤔
Scott Sample 14
I just listened to the interaction, using the link kindly provided by oldwineau (thanks)..

The pilot didn't sound angry, just frustrated, which would be quite normal under the circumstances. Crew, both in the air and on the ground, have a lot of pressure from management to keep things running on time. And who knows how many connections were missed by passengers.

I heard the voices of at least 2 ATC personnel in the tower, so it's likely that one person alone can't be blamed for this - clearly some procedural changes need to be made. I applaud the professionalism of the PIC. Shining a light on this is good for everyone..

PS: Trying to vaguely blame this on some hiring policy is ridiculous.
Michael Yentzer 11
This due to increased Traffic or lack of well trained Controllers? I have a nephew who recently retired ATC Instructor from the FAA, I'll have to ask him what he knows/thinks. I do know that a few years ago that he felt the quality of the new ATC personnel lacked training and many were run through his classes to caught them up. I asked him he thought the rush to get them ATC through train was the issue or just the new ATC lacked capability. He said the rushed training was the primary reason. He did say most of the unqualified, lacked the ability to perform, personnel were usually weeded out before he saw them. Also modernization of the System has always been a issue.
Sean Awning 12
Not sure why KSFO uses both parallel RWYs 28L and 28R for both landings and take-offs. Surely this practice creates unnecessary confusion. KORD typically limits takeoffs to one of the parallel RWYs and landings to the other, e.g., if 10L is for take-offs, then 10C is for landings.
Bayouflier 7
Heavies flying to the far east are too heavy to take off on the ones, therefore....
Tim ONeill 1
And I read where both Rwy 1L and 1R which are normally used for takeoffs are closed for maintenance.
aurodoc 10
SFO is my home airport and my impression is that layout of paired intersecting runways makes this a very difficult configuration to manage. Arrivals only on 28L and R. Departures on 28L and R and crossing runway 01L and R, no landings. Heavy aircraft only depart on 28L and R as they are the 2 longer runways. Cloudy weather affects parallel landings on 28 R and L. It is a real acrobatic feat to keep aircraft arriving and departing here. When departing I am always amazed at the timing especially when crossing the 28 runways on takeoff and seeing arriving flights not too far away on final approach. It is a difficult ATC job.
Peter Fuller 2
KSFO could in theory use one of the 28 parallels only for takeoffs, the other only for landings, if the scheduled number of arrivals and departures were about equal and evenly scheduled during a time period (hour, day, whatever). That’s a big if: actual schedules and operations are a lot lumpier than that, so the combined capacity of the two runways has to be used for both and even that’s not enough at busy times.

KORD has I think six parallel east-west runways so there’s a lot more capacity and flexibility there than at KSFO.
srobak 1
Have to disagree... I routinely see 10L and 10C being used concurrently for both TOs and landings - especially earlier in the morning and late evening. I have often watched it firsthand, stopping on 294 at the 39.25 mile marker sign to look straight down the runway from 28R
linbb 7
How true all of that is and starting to show but no where near what they have always had overseas with private ATC problems. Traffic count up doesnt help either.
Rob Palmer 10
Back in the 70s, working as a programmer at FAA Hq in Washington, I met a lot of ex-controllers, many with military experience. One man had flown all the aircraft the Air Force has, all had experienced Indianapolis Center on the holidays. Reading reports like this, I get the impression reinforced that I always had that only special people are fit for this job. I can remember the days when it was only rated as a GS-5. In any case, I had no problems as programmer/analyst since I could take my own time to solve problems whereas the pilot and controller do not have this latitude.
Terry Briggs 38
Being a truly competent ATC requires a skill set that not many people have. But to assert that only a certain sex or race of people can have that skill set (as many of the comments here seem to imply) is nothing more than outright, irrational prejudice.

The aviation community can do better.
Duane Mader 11
Doesn’t sound like a minority to me on the tape. Judge folks by their actions and performance not skin color. But, that said, DEI has been put into practice and given priority over candidates who prepped (attending prep school) and worked harder to be controllers. That is dangerous.
Bill Overdue 7
Not sure why your analysis is being downgraded, when clearly it's true and a common occurrence?
Tom Bruce 5
me either
Gloria Johns -2
Oh, Duane, you almost succeeded at proving you're not prejudiced until you didn't. You realize that DEI efforts include women, right? Do you think that women are inferior or are you only targeting minorities?
My understanding is that he is targeting anyone who is not qualified, be they women or minorities.
And he's right!
That's exactly what DIE does: put people that are less qualified in the ATC seat, in order to meet DIE quotas.
He. Is targeting anyone , anyone who is not qualified. Could be the boss’s son in law who may not be a minority
My understanding is that he is targeting policies that put anybody that is not qualified in the ATC seat.
Women or minorities, it doesn't matter.
And that IS EXACTLY what DIE does, period, end of story.
jmilleratp 7
The pilot didn't get "angry." The title of this article is clickbait.
John Mahoney 5
There's a video online of the ATC recording from the incident. He was angry.

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Atanu Dey -9
It used to be just the "Peoples' Republic of Berkeley" -- now it is the whole state.
oldwineau 2
Here is another site to use.
Sonny Shattuck 2
I just listened to the pilot/tower conversation and this is not clickbait. Filing a report and having approach tell you that this has been a problem for a while and needs an official report tells the listener the pilot was professional but "vented to his audience" as the pilot says in his own words.
Rob Palmer 2
Back in the 70s, working as a programmer at FAA Hq in Washington, I met a lot of ex-controllers, many with military experience. One man had flown all the aircraft the Air Force has, all had experienced Indianapolis Center on the holidays. Reading reports like this, I get the impression reinforced that I always had that only special people are fit for this job. I can remember the days when it was only rated as a GS-5. In any case, I had no problems as programmer/analyst since I could take my own time to solve problems whereas the pilot and controller do not have this latitude.
Ian Greig 2
I don't understand how an aircraft can be cleared to land until the runway is clear. Shouldn't the instruction from the tower controller be "continue approach #1" or "continue approach #2" for following aircraft. When the runway is clear the first aircraft can be given "clear to land" Only one aircraft can be given "clear to land" at a time and that instruction should virtually never have to be withdrawn. I think this is normal practice in Europe and it certainly is in UK.
Jack DeForrest 2
Same thing at Austin-Bergstrom a while back. There's going to be a disaster if ATC doesn't figure this out.
carste10 2
Is it time to build another runway? I've seen the long lines at DFW and SFO. Think of the wasted time and fuel spent in the departure lines. Are ground controllers being coerced to launch more departures?
James Simms 0
Enviro Wacko’s would have a debilitating stroke over the thought & would have daily mass ‘die-in’s on active runways.

Better get started between environmental studies, Federal lawsuits, & funding; it’ll take 30 years to get it done. Since 2012, London Heathrow is still trying to get a third runway built & only in 2020 was given the go ahead
Leo Cotnoir 13
The implied racism in many of the comments here reflects very poorly on the aviation community.
mark dailey 5
Citing DEI as a possible causal factor is not racism.
boughbw 11
Nobody citing it is doing so with "possible causal factor" being a key qualification. In fact, I'm not seeing anything from legitimate sources (ie--outside of rightwing world) that shows there is a policy of hiring non-qualified non-white males over more qualified white males. But treating minority candidates as equals to non-minority candidates is a major offense to many conservatives. Just reading their posts it is clear the inference is "minority" means "unqualified" and "white" means "qualified." Now just watch my comment's rating plummet.
John Taylor -3
Your leftist bias is showing.
jim78418 -3
Left wing vz right wing plus white vs black. Any other cheap comments?
Michael Osmers 3
Actually, without evidence supporting the accusation, that’s exactly what it is.
Is it really a DEI issue when the SFO tower, Norcal, and approach controllers are all male? They all sound like white males, too. Just sayin'.
Is it really a DEI issue when the SFO tower, Norcal, and approach controllers are all male? They all sound like whot males, too. Just sayin'.
Dale Ballok -3
Problem is, it’s not just in the aviation industry, but that’s one where those kinds of inadequacies can not be tolerated!
Rick Colley 0
DEI, aka Affirmative Action, are hiring initiatives meant to favor immutable physical characteristics over meritocratic abilities. Are any of us willing to accept a DEI/affirmative action accepted medical school "graduate", or Air Traffic Controller, who is in that position based on something absolutely meaningless (in the real world) like color/sex/gender rather than just accepting the most qualified applicants into those professions? Not me.
"DEI/Affirmative Action" initiatives have been practiced for a hundred years in the medical profession and decades in ATC. Because it only hired white men, no matter how much more qualified women or people of color might have been. Where was the meritocracy then? And where were the cries of
"not fair" and "we're all gonna die" then? Everyone was
pretty much convinced that white men were best for the job, facts be damned.
Gloria Johns 1
You do realize that you're saying women are inferior since they benefit from DEI. Or are you only talking about colored people?
Rick Colley 1
Actually, what I said is exactly opposite. Being a woman does not imply inferiority. No matter the sex, gender, race, ethnicity, etc., the only thing that should matter is the ability of the person to do the job. Nothing else. Are we really supposed to choose our candidates for the most demanding occupations based the person's color, etc? Give me a break!
People who need DIE in order to be hired are implicitly the ones who could not make it solely on their abilities.
Thanks for making the case against DIE.
David Beattie 6
Wow, you’d think this were the forum for the proud boys. All the racist dog whistles. If you believe only white men can be controllers, pilots etc. you are in for a big surprise. Almost a third of the new entrants at flight schools are women. Of course, women and minorities have been hired as pilots for at least three decades. The accident rate has continued to decline substantially during that period.
Gloria Johns 3
These guys are okay with women. It's only "the other" they're referring to. Pitiful.
BE35J 1
Right, don't consider the consequences of such policy approaches in our once great nation that put only the best in high stress positions, just lock step on command with the politburo. Mindfulness, not mindlessness wins the day. People here are speaking truth to the matter in that no mindful person cares a damn about any social, gender, political, etc anything as long as you can do the job and do it without letting ANY personal attributes interfere, as is happening everywhere due to the unintended consequences....., are they unintended......, comrades?
aircraft on the ground have priority????
Michael Osmers 7
That was a snarky comment by the TRACON controller sharing his frustrations with the crew of UA1390.
Dale Ballok 3
Exactly! That’s the most ludicrous part of this whole issue!
jhakunti 1
Don't clear anyone to takeoff, much less lineup and wait on the runway immediately preceeding the landing of the airplane you already gave landing clearance.

I don't know maybe I need an FAA clarification on the meaning of cleared to land, or perhaps more self study at home but I always assumed it meant a clear runway in some part.

Nonetheless also add to that not allowing aircraft to cross the runway on which an aircraft already has received landing clearance. Seems kinda simple maybe I'm wrong.
There is no excuse for this to happen at SFO. It is a straight-in approach on the 28s and no plane on the ground should be cleared to enter the runway when an aircraft on approach has been cleared to land. I'm sure the FAA will be investigating this. SFO used to be great at sequencing arriving flights to coincide with departing flights. I don't know if this incident took place before the construction to the 1s was complete, but I hope no one on that incoming United flight had tight connections to an outbound international flight.
Thats waste of time and fuel... cant this be made little further apart in time and distance and make it smooth...
jhakunti 1
Maybe also institute a distance marker dme or GPS whereby atc knows they cannot call for a sidestep. The Tarboro Learjet crash immediately comes to mind when he issued that instruction.
Gary Holden 1
I would think United would have to go back to the approach facility after the missed so wouldn't approach have the responsibility for spacing?
Michael Osmers 5
Tower was the one that put an aircraft on the runway, twice… after they gave landing clearance so no, approach had nothing to do with that.
James Murray 1
Why no side step? I would have done it in a B767 from that distance. United pilot should take out his frustrations on his fellow departing pilots who were aware of his presence on final. He should know how SFO tries to squeeze deps and arrs in. Sounds like a dog with a bone.
Michael Osmers 2
PIS’s prerogative as the final authority on the safe operation of the flight. That’s airmanship 101 and you weren’t in the cockpit so you don’t get a vote. As for the other comment, that’s just ignorant.
rkeeton 1
click bait

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Tom Bruce 1
SW. taxi "without delay" across 27 left...hold short of 27 right...
blt56 1
PAYWALL - Can't read for free!
coinflyer -1
Paywall. Why pin this site?
Chris Bryant 6
Not a paywall, but it doesn't like having an ad blocker.
sparkie624 1
Not much difference!
True Falcon 0
I have ad blockers turned off for aeroexplorer, but I still get that message. Apparently, it doesn't like default settings in Firefox Nightly on Windows 11.
Peter McGrath 1
Just create a FREE account and you'll be all set.
Peter McGrath 1
Just cerate a FREE account and you'll be all set. it really is free too!
srobak 1
James Simms 4
I had no problems accessing it.
John D 3
No paywall.
sparkie624 5
I wish FA would block news articles from a PayWall...
srobak 1
Individual FA users post links to websites that are external to FA. FA has no way to control the content on the external sites - or to interpret the data coming from those sites.
William Boring -1
Mayor Pete will get on this after a relaxing weekend.
Gloria Johns 0
Unprofessional for the internal team to criticize each other over the airwaves. No matter who's at fault you save it for off the air.
srobak 1
Because that clearly had accomplished anything up to that point. The controller even said they'd been dealing with it for some time. Perhaps with this level of exposure - now it will actually be getting rectified.

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James Simms -8
Yep, & Oblunder deserves some of the credit
Gloria Johns 4
How come MAGAs always resort to name-calling? Don't you realize how ignorant that makes you sound?


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