PBI ATC: One Bad Apple Won’t Spoil the Bunch

By Robert Mark on November 19th, 2009

One of tPBITOWERhe truly enjoyable parts of life – for me at least – is the chance to travel often aboard a business airplane. If I’m not in the left seat, I’m usually pretty close as I was last week on board an Embraer Lineage enroute from West Palm Beach Florida to Teterboro.

In the hours before this New Jersey trip I’d gotten to know the two Embraer pilots – Edson and Prado – pretty well since they’d functioned as my flight instructors during my left seat time on the E-190. It was all part of a Pilot Report I was writing for one of the aviation magazines.

Just prior to engine start this warm, sunny Florida morning, they’d both been telling me about how impressed they were with U.S. ATC, commenting there was none to compare with it anywhere in the world. I pretty much agree, especially having flown across the Brazilian rainforests these guys call their homeland.

As we taxied out to runway 9 Left at West Palm Beach, the local controller at PBI got snippy with the pilot, enough so that I’d like to have climbed off the jump-seat and hidden beneath it rather than continue listening.

We approached the 9 Left hold short lines on “Taxiway Lima” and called ready for takeoff, but there was no response from the tower on 119.1. The non-flying pilot called again and this time the controller reacted. “PP-XTE, I didn’t respond because there’s an airplane on final.” (The italics indicate points of obvious sarcasm … the controller’s, not mine) He made it clear we should have simply KNOWN that. None of us saw the airplane and I would have called ready too.

When our turn came up again, the controller told the flying pilot to “taxi into position on 9 Left.” Perhaps four or five seconds passed as the 100,000 lbs. airplane made its way to the centerline. That’s when the local controller reminded us he was still having a bad day, even though there was very little traffic on the frequency.IMG_0218

“PP-XTE, you’re too slow getting out there. Cross the runway and make a 180 and hold short again.” The irritation in this guy’s voice was unmistakable. The non-flying pilot just looked at me as the PIC complied with this angry controller’s instructions. Maybe the guy didn’t like non-U.S. airplanes. Tough place to live if that’s the case, I thought.

For you non-controllers, the proper technique is to tell the pilot about other traffic when they’re asked him to line up, specifically so everybody’s in the loop, although as close as the landing traffic apparently was, this takeoff would have never worked anyway.

I was horribly embarrassed to be one of the few Americans on board the Lineage this morning, not simply because it showed U.S. ATC in a poor light, but because this tower controller simply wasn’t that busy. I apologized to my cockpit comrades but they just shrugged their shoulders. They’d done nothing to deserve this obvious lack of respect.

As most of you know, I spent a decade of my life in towers and radar rooms,  so I have infinite respect for really good controllers. I also have little patience with controllers who shouldn’t be left alone on the radio where they can air their dirty laundry in front of the flying public.

We eventually departed and arrived in New York two hours later where the irony of our takeoff from Florida was brought home yet again. I wish I’d had my recorder plugged in to the aircraft audio system because listening to the guy working Teterboro arrivals was pure poetry in motion.

We were stuck in the New York gloom at 4,000 feet and on frequency for at least five minutes before the guy even had a chance to talk to us. He was talking non-stop, both vectoring into TEB and working VFRs around the neighborhood.

When our turn came up, he apologized for making us think he was too busy to work us but turned us toward the airport and even said, “XTE, you keep your speed up for me and I’ll speed you right in to Teterboro.” Our two pilots just grinned. They knew full well what a great job this guy was doing.

“PP-XTE, contact Teterboro Tower 19.5 and you have a nice day.” We couldn’t even say thank you. The dude never stopped talking. Our arrival into one of the busiest pieces of airspace in the world made up for the lousy job the guy did at PBI where the world seemed beautiful and sunny.

Maybe the FAA needs to help that PBI controller get a little more fiber in his diet. What do you think?

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36 Responses to “PBI ATC: One Bad Apple Won’t Spoil the Bunch”

  1. jeff Says:

    No excuse for that behavior. 25 yrs on position here. I’ve seen it before. Unfortunately, the problem is rarely addressed except thru peer pressure.

  2. Niyoko Says:

    I to feel embarrassed at the attitude that the controller in Florida gave the pilots. It reflects poorly on his professionalism.

    I’m glad that there was a great contrast of good and bad. I’ve not heard the real ATC around NYC, but I have sat as an observer at VATSIM’s KJFK on a busy night, and I have gained a lot of respect for the ATC that have to manage so much in a given time. It isn’t easy.

  3. Rob Mark Says:

    The contrast was so clear between NY and PBI it was almost frightening, so I had to mention it.

    As I was walking across the ramp realizing I’d be back in gloomy Chicago that very night, I was thinking how lucky someone must be to live and work in South Florida … but then I’m a sunlight nut.

  4. Tony Askew Says:

    As a controller at PBI, I am very much embarrassed that a peer of mine would treat pilots as you describe in a very thoughtful and concerned article. I will try to post it in the facility in hopes that some will re-evaluate their attitude towards “work” at Palm Beach.



  5. Jeff Lisle Says:

    Love your stuff… went over and checked out the E-190. What an awesome looking aircraft. Now where did I put that lottery ticket so I can put my order in…

  6. Shane Says:

    Rob, you need to get your facts straight. I listened to the tape. Take in mind Taxiway Hotel, Golf, and RWY13 closed for exiting so landing aircraft are rolling long. There was not annoyance in the controllers voice and the exact quote was “Sir, looks like you were a little slow getting out on 9left cross the runway and hold short”, then he had to repeat himself because the pilot did not hear him. then he got two departures out in the next gap, including you, with multiple aircract inbound on the final for runway 9 right and 9left. So your statement that he was not busy answering landlines or coordinating behind the scenes is incorrect. By the way we gave that aircraft multiple practice approaches and I beleive we give good service at PBI. And by the way the last transmission from the controller to you was “Have a good Day contact departure” and he didnt sound annoyed there either. I have been here for 6 years and a controller for 11. The person working that day is one of the best guys we have in the tower. He tried to get you guys out in a departure gap then probably realized he may have a go around so he cleard you from the runway. Sounds safe to me. Call me like I said if you want to talk!!!!

  7. Shane Says:

    Tony check your facts before you react to such nonsense

  8. Brian Says:

    Turbojets are assumed to be ready for departure upon reaching the end of the runway. Turbojet pilots do not need to tell us that they are ready. If you are not ready then please let us know. Please refer to FAA 7110.65 if you dispute this statement.

  9. Paul Cox Says:

    By way of explanation, and I know Rob already knows this, but something like 20 to 30 percent of our ATC workforce have less than 5 years on the job.

    With so many newbies and so many trainees, at any given time there’s an awfully high chance that you’re being worked by a trainee at the time. As an OJT instructor, I can tell you that at times we’ll let students get themselves into a spot way beyond the point where normally an experienced controller would have stopped and reset things.

    It sucks for the efficiency of the system, but every OJTI I know won’t let things get UNSAFE; they’ll just let the trainee try and work their own way out of it.

    The best thing to do in these situations, IMO, is to call the facility and simply let the supervisor or CIC (controller in charge) know of what happened. Someone needs to educate the controller. Many times it’s based on bad assumptions; the controller thought that a pilot would have known something when the reality is different.

    None of this is an excuse; it’s just a reason why things can go sour at times.

  10. Robert Mark Says:

    I NEVER said that this little incident was unsafe Shane. I only said the guy seemed pretty annoyed and it seemed to have no basis.

    We heard the taxiway closures on the ATIS for sure. How though would the controller mentioning the position of inbound traffic when he put us on the runway have hurt?

    Did they change the manual that you no longer need to do that? If so, then I must apologize for expecting it.

    Still to me, if I needed to push the airplanes out for the reasons you mentioned again, I can’t see where mentioning the traffic could do anything but help the guy on local.

    Not having the tape in my paws right now I can only tell you that the way we all HEARD the local controller’s response made it pretty clear to us, at least, that he was not happy.

    And you are absolutely correct, PBI did give us good service on the practice approaches. That’s why I called this piece what I did.

    I never said PBI was a bad place or that everyone who worked there was a lose cannon or anything ugly.

    I simply said that on this particular day, this is how the three of us in the cockpit heard the conversation.

    Maybe we were the ones who had a bad day. Could have been I guess. It just didn’t sound real friendly-like to us.

    Perhaps this is one of those agree-to-disagree conversations.

  11. Shane Says:

    He did mention the traffic to you guys, he said pp-ext 9L position and hold be ready traffic 4 mile final. Then he canceld N545qs landing clearence in accord with the 7110.65, new rule requested by alpa. When He realized 30 seconds later it may not work he asked you all to cross. I would suggest a FOIA request to the faa to get the tape or take this article down. And as for grumpyness or any other annoyence I did not pick that up in any transmissions and I had four different people listen to it. Please remove the article so we can drop the subject. Your post is not accurate.

  12. Shane Says:

    Also, your pilots sounded nice through the whole conversation and NEVER questioned any service provided.

  13. BAD APPLE Says:

    Dear Robert, Now that it appears you have thrown me under the bus, as the bad apple, with more than 27 years of ATC experience (15 at PBI), I have listened to the tape. It is fortunate that the agency I work for records ALL of our transmissions to prove, or disprove in this case, accusations made by pilots. I originally intended to write an article to defend what I did that day. But in retrospect I have decided to advise anyone who thinks this pilot and crew received anything but normal handling to FOIA through the FAA the official recording for November 11, 2009 at approximately 1610Z for Palm Beach International Airport, Local Control and listen to the transmissions made for themselves. I have listened to the tapes numerous times today and here no sarcasm, no unprofessionalism and no abnormal handling of this flight. Robert, I challenge you to a meeting, I would like to sit across the table from you and the pilots aboard the flight and I will put the certified recording in your paws. I challenge you to listen to the recording, and although you grossly misquoted my transmissions from that day, discuss the “BAD APPLE” accusations you have accused me of. When you have listened to the recordings and figure out your “story” contains an inaccurate reporting of transmissions, timimg, mood and events, I would request you issue a public apology to me, my Air Traffic Manager, Operations Manager and Supervisor, but most of all to my fellow controllers at PBI who day in and day out work traffic with the utmost professionalism. Your the jet jockey call me to set up a meeting at your convenience. I am looking forward to it. I have nothing to hide. Please call the facility and ask for CB. Come on Robert put some money where your mouth is, I’ll allow you to buy me lunch, and if after we meet you still stand behind your article, I’ll buy. Fair enough? I’ll be waiting for your call set up a meeting. PS I’ll bring my NATCA President Shane Ahern with me also to accept your apology.
    PS To PBI TONY ASKEW Once again you show you don’t know your ass from a hole in the ground. You should have asked to listen to the recording before passing negative judgement on a fellow controller. You may be trying to get a Supes position but after your ongoing negative actions (Piles of trash in a managers office)and reactions of the workforce you will never gain the respect needed to be a good supervisor.
    Jeff, After 25 years I challenge you to listen to the tape via FOIA and then write on this site how I need peer pressure to correct any issues with handling this flight.
    Paul, FOIA the recording and you will see this story is grossly inaccurate.

  14. Bob Parry Says:

    To those of the flying public that deal with the controllers at PBI on a daily if not weekly basis, I find your article without merit. Their ability and professionalism is under appreciated. I have been flying in the South Florida area for over 20 years and it amazes me that these dedicated controllers are able to shift from a light to moderate traffic volume in the summer monthes to a heavy volume in the winter. This is an ability that the rest of the nation should take a lesson from. I invite you Robert to come and fly with me on President’s weekend and you to will be amazed as to “how much they manage” on a given day or night. It truly is “almost frightening”. You get the credit for the quotations.

  15. DR Says:

    Jet Whine. How appropriately named. Whiner!!!!

  16. Robert Mark Says:

    All who have listened to the recording are a tad biased I think. But if I were sitting in PBI tower, I’d probably be trying to do the same thing.

    What I said from the get go was that the way I heard the conversation in the cockpit is the way I reported it here. I was embarassed. I said it before, that hasn’t changed. It’s simply the way I reacted to what I heard.

    If the pilots and myself missed the first call where the traffic was mentioned, then that is certainly our fault, no, my fault, because as you said, the pilots themselves did not complain. Knowing them the way I do right now, I doubt they ever would.

    So this isn’t about them. It’s about me and let’s be clear about that.

    You can say whatever you want, but based upon what I DID hear, I was embarassed because the controller sounded miffed to me. If he didn’t to you, OK. That’s your perspective which is why I said perhaps we should simply agree to disagree.

    I didn’t use any foul langauage here or condemn the entire operation because of what I heard. When it was mentioned earlier, in fact, I absolutely admitted you guys at PBI WERE nice enough to work us on a few practice approaches.

    Want to me sound like I’m crazy for not hearing what you did, the way you did and that I’m a whiner because I interpreted what I heard differently from you, that’s your call. I doubt that approach is going to go a long way toward convincing anyone though.

    But hey, tell you what. I’ll make this easy for you.

    My complete apologies for EVER raising this issue. I’m sure you guys are 100% correct and that I completely misinterpreted everything I heard that morning, even if it was only my opinion anyway.

    But really. maybe I just needed a good story to write. Heck, blogging is only about being popular anyway, right? C’mon, I read Blue-Eyed Buddhist and The Main Bang.

    Maybe you guys just looked like such a good target that morning that I couldn’t resist.

    Sure, that’s it. That’s why this blog has become well regarded in the industry, because I make such a habit of completely misinterpreting the industry on a regular basis.

    I promise though that I’ll be absolutely 100% on my toes the next time I come through PBI because I’ll know that the only way anyone can possibly see or hear anything at your airport is the way you do.

    Is that enough?

    And to the Air Traffic Manager at PBI. I am very sorry I raised this issue and ruined your day. I won’t make that mistake again because I now know how I’m expected to think.

    Don’t worry really. I won’t forget. I promise I’ll be on my best behavior next time.

    So as I said, let’s just agree to disagree.

  17. Shane Says:

    Rob I also invite you to FOIA all transmission concerned regarding the A/C you were in. We can count all of the missed readbacks, and incorrect ones too. But then again I did not post that any pilot who gets unruly with us or even your mistakes in a public forum such as this. This article is slander and need to be removed. You caused a Quality Assurance Review and many found nothing wrong and they are independent of us so there is not any bias!!!! People could have got in trouble if something was wrong but nothing was. If you have questions with service call the facility immediatley dont address it two weeks later in in inflamatory article. Thanks!!

  18. Shane Says:

    Tapes dont lie my friend!!! Remove the article so I am not constanly getting email after email or phone call!!!!! Please!!!!!!!! Oh and by the way when he told you I know your guys are ready he was fixing your flight plan for you because someone filed you as a heavy jet and it was on the flight progress strip.

  19. BAD APPLE Says:

    Robert, As the person you’ve directed your rath upon, I didn’t try to defend myself. I didn’t use any sarcasm or unsincere apologies in my reply. Actually I am really not trying to be biased, I don’t need to be. I went and listened to the recording with an open mind to see if your accusations placed upon me were accurate. Neither I nor the rest of the workforce at Palm Beach International need to defend the job I did that day. It was the normal handling of a departure flight with no voice inflection, no apparent mood and certainly no inferred “instructions” that you write. You insinuate there was some sort of derogatory tone in my transmissions, you state that I may have an issue with foreign registered aircraft, that I was disrepectful and then you grossly misquote anything that was said that day. That was all untrue. and inaccurate. I know from the recording that in the Hold short transmission that you misqouted me, my first two words were “Yes Sir…” In my life that’s been known as a form of respect when addressing someone. I’m not here to defend myself, instead as I previously have, I ask you to meet with me so I can put the recording in your paws and let’s set the story straight. If you’re not willing to do that then your story has no credibility. I don’t need to defend my actions that day, you can listen for yourself and then you can issue a “sincere” apology to the FAA’s workforce at PBI. I ask that you don’t run off with your story any further until you have had an opportunity to review the official recording that you’ve identified as less than professional service. If I was wrong I would write an apology to you and the crew aboard that day. I have no issue with reviewing the facts and if I was wrong saying so and learning from my error. But I’m not doing that because I did listen to the facts, I do remember that situation and when my Operations Manager, who by the way would not have any issues with sitting me down and discussing any poor performance, when he says there is nothing there, then I know your story is that, just an inaccurate story. Come on down to Palm Beach or tell me where you would like to meet to have you review the facts in this accusatory complaint you have made. I honestly can’t believe you have continued on your stories path, attacking the job I performed very professionally, I even wished you a good day when switching you to departure (you failed to mention that) even after I made the offer to you yesterday to meet and listen to the facts. I will again request that you sincerely apologize to myself, my fellow controllers and managers after you’ve listened to the facts. I did not deserve what you have written. Charlie Boice

  20. Old Man Time Says:

    What date and time exactly did this take place?

    I would love to catch this on the LiveATC feed archive.

  21. Shane Says:

    November 11th around 1600z. You wont get to hear the landline coardination but I think you may get the audio.

  22. BAD APPLE Says:

    november 11, 2009 at approx 1610Z

  23. TexasCrude Says:

    Dear Shane and Bad Apple Charlie and Robert,
    I think that this article is irresponsible on the part of the author. He is probably not unbiased as a journalist should be. He has incentive to stand behind his “annoyed pilots” so he can get his fun cockpit trips with those guys. Robert should just apologize and just remove the article. It is clear from Charlie and Shane that they are willing to stand behind their recordings and statements. The fake apology written by Robert on 11-21 is undignified and childish to the point of being offensive, as it was intended to be. Also, Robert, if you and your pilots missed a first call apologize for it. Im sure busy or not, if you missed a first call in new york the controller would be instantly miffed at you there.

    Then to claim ethnic bias? You should issue a written apology to all involved, including the pilots for this horrible claim. You are the one who embarrasses American ideals of truth, fairness and personal responsibility by allowing your article to remain posted the way it is written. It is clear you dont have an editor (and that you need one). I can re-write your article for you:” I was sitting in the cockpit with two pilots who weren’t listening like they should. We had to waste time and gas because of it. The airport was busier than it looked because of construction and maybe the controller got a little annoyed with us. He wished us a good day on the way out anyway. When we made it to new york safely, the controlled talked a lot more, which I think is cool. I like to brown-nose my pilot friends.” –Sounds like what you were going for to me.

    I noticed that this blog is sponsored by Cessna. If I were Shane and Charlie, I’d play the tapes for Cessna and see what they think of the kind of trash their corporate name and money is sponsoring and associated with. I would also show Cessna the 11-21 response from the author which is sarcastic and shows low character in my “opinion” -which Robert, you gotta agree with me having, since you want to be so entitled to yours. I guess one is entitled to their opinion when they think they are facile with the written word. Using Roberts logic, I think am a good writer, therefore what is above is acceptable too, right? I mean, its well written and cute too!! (In my opinion)

    Robert, Whatever sarcasm you may have thought you detected from the bad apple, you clearly have exceeded in your smug 11-21 reply. Which makes you a hypocrite as well. Just apologize and take this ignorant, unsubstantiated mess down.

  24. RevTC Says:

    Robert: after reading both sides, it appears to me that you are the one that should be excusing your own bad apple of a blog entry. With each admission that you missed a transmission or left out part of the controller’s transmission, your premise gets weaker and weaker. It appears that it’s more a story of pilots whose expectations were not met through their own inattention and assumption. (e.g. controllers are not required to tell you of traffic on final if it has not received a landing clearance. So, yes, you should stop expecting that.) Your backpedaling explanation is that this is how you HEARD the conversation. Well, now that it’s clear that how you HEARD it isn’t how it happened (thanks to recordings) it’s equally as clear that what you’ve written here is tripe and should be recanted rather than defended. In short, this isn’t an example of a controller having a bad day, it’s an example of a blog writer having a bad day/entry.

  25. Robert Mark Says:

    Clearly here we are not all talking about the same thing. I expressed an opinion, which is precisely why part of the tag line on this blog states its all “opinion.”

    The dictionary calls an opinion, “a personal view, attitude, or appraisal.”

    Honestly though folks, the more vehement and the more personal this discussion becomes the more questions it is raising in the minds of the public, I think.

    I never mentioned anyone by name and I never said anything was unsafe at PBI. But that, of course, is just an opinion. It’s not right, or wrong … it is just the way I see things.

    You are certainly free to agree or disagree.

  26. annonymous Says:


    I guess I should explain to you that controllers are kind of like cops and tend to close ranks when they feel threatened.

    A decent manager will defend his troops and the quality assurance department is usually comprised of people who were controllers, who took the job to impress the powers that be so they can move up in the ranks and maybe become managers themselves one day.

    Now that I’ve been retired a couple of years I can see things more clearly than I could when I was working. West Palm Beach controllers, regardless of what they say, have never really been a happy bunch.

    We got a bunch of them at my old facility who were promoted back in the 90’s and they were usually either slackers or whiners. Maybe the culture in PBI has changed since then.

    As I ponder this, if I were still a working controller, I would probably be quite upset and offended if someone posted an article like this that questioned my service.

    BUT, I would like to think that if there were any truth to it, I would learn from it and not be quite so offensive in response.

    The fact that he is so vehement and vocal reinforces to me the vanity he possesses.

    Shane, the union rep, is actually a pretty nice guy, but also young. His job is to defend his people, so expect nothing less from him.

    Keep in mind also, that most controllers really do work hard and try to do the best job possible. PBI does work an incredible amount of traffic for the type facility they are, especially at this time of year. Thanksgiving week is HELL in S. Florida, and most of Florida, especially V-3.

    It isn’t an easy thing to write a blog either, is it? I think you do a great job. Perhaps you’ve pissed some people off, but that’s the hazard of free speech.

    It isn’t as if you named names. They were the ones who identified themselves in your remarks. Think of all the hate mail my friend John Carr must have received over the years.

    Keep plugging!


    Retired ATCer

  27. jeff Says:

    I must say I’d like to hear the tape. Not badly enough to write to PBI ATCT and request it.

    One thing to consider. If the transmissions came across to the crew as “snippy’, you might want to think about it.

  28. BAD APPLE Says:

    My last comment on this incident is what I’ve said all along…FOIA the recording. There is nothing else needed to defend my actions on that day. You owe me and the controllers at PBI a sincere apology. But wait, if you listened to the recording, then the truth of my actions and transmissions that day would become fact to you and this story would go away. Hmm why do that? why let the facts get in the way of your story? I made the offer to meet with you and you have not taken me up on it. Yes I put my name in here why, because my service that day was normal and I have nothing to hide. I appreciate Shane and all the others who have rallied to defend me, but the truth still stands in the recording. I invite anyone who would have any doubt that this flight received normal professional handling to listen to the facts. Robert, maybe you did have a bad day or were looking for a target for a bad blog. Whatever it was I will return to work today and work all of the aircraft in a professional and couteous manner. Maybe your next blog should be about an ex-air traffic controller who has started writing aviation articles and blogs but is running out of factual stories, or isn’t interested in factual stories and will write a fictional story just to get some hits and controversy on his site. I have decided to contact Cessna and I will forward them the article, as Texas Crude suggested, and ask them to review what and whom they support financially with the suggestion that they may want to find someone who is willing to write stories with fact, rather than this kind of attacking fiction. Your credibility is nil. Sincerely, Charlie
    PS I’m really a pretty good apple, and a good tower controller also.

  29. Robert Mark Says:

    You are, of course, welcome to contact anyone you choose.

    I still think we should simply agree to disagree, but that simply doesn’t seem to be enough for you.

    And for the record, having flown into PBI during the Thanksgiving Hell weekend, I’ll bet you probably are a pretty good controller.

    I never said you or anyone else down there were bad controllers.


  30. towerflower Says:

    Perception is a funny thing.

    I used to work at FLL, about 9 miles to the north is FXE (smaller arpt). At night the county required us to shut the runway lights off on 9R making our arpt layout, from the air and at night, almost identical to FXE. I had a commercial airliner (I won’t mention the carrier so as not to start another war of words) tagged on radar to land at FLL. MIA, who is the parent approach control, vectored the aircraft almost over but slightly west of FXE for their approach to FLL and a visual approach landing.

    After the pilot told MIA that they had FLL in sight the MIA controller cleared them for a visual approach to RY 9L at FLL and switched them to me. This pilot called and proceeded to make a 270 degree right turn and line up for RY 8 at FXE on about a 7 mile final. I informed the pilot that he appeared to be lining up for the wrong airport and where FLL was. The response back was “Missy, you just let me fly the airplane.” OK, I called MIA and let them know I was trying to get them back to the south and FLL, I also called FXE to make sure that they understood that I had the airplane and was trying to get him off their final and to ensure that they kept any traffic clear of him. The pilot was positive that he was correct and at a 2 mile final I canceled his clearance, climbed him, turned him to the south and pointed out FLL. He landed safely with no additional incident.

    I thought it was over but the pilot was livid, demanding my name and the facility number. I guessed as to what happened, the localizer freq for FXE is 111.10 and for FLL it is 110.10, a simple misdial on his equipment. He told the sup (who witnessed everything) that he had everything under control until “That Woman” interfered with his flight. That MIA for some reason had vectored him over FLL and brought him in from the south and through the localizer (localizer misdial is becoming more believeable).

    Nothing the sup said would satisfy this PIC. The sup even offered to produce the radar print out to show him how he never flew south of FLL and it was another arpt to the north (FXE) that he overflew. MIA was in the loop the whole time and it was only after a threat of a pilot deviation from MIA that the PIC backed down. The next day the first officer called to apologize, not to me but the facility. I guess after sleeping on it they realized that they were in error or maybe it was when they were in the craft the next day and saw the misdialed frequency.

    I guess the point of the story is that you might think everything is fine until it isn’t and then people start reading more into the situation that really isn’t there. Did you pay attention to the controller’s voice before being taken off the runway? His tone might never have changed either before or after he talked to you but because something unusual happened, you might have read more into it then what went on.

    When you put this blog out you set into motion an investigation by the facility or by the region. Not out of curiosity but because you leveled a charge of unprofessionalism of the unnamed controller. This is something that many facilities take very seriously and not something that would be covered up.

    You now have heard that the facility found no unprofessionalism on the controller’s part and a request by many to listen to the tapes once again. We could never get the unnamed carrier pilot to do it even though 3 separate facilities saw his error so be the better pilot and listen again without all the distractions of a cockpit environment. You might be surprised that maybe things didn’t go down the way you thought they did.

  31. Max Trescott Says:

    Rob, like you, I fly extensively around the country and fortunately attitude issues with controllers are extremely rare–perhaps even less so than they used to be in the past. We have one guy in the entire SF Bay area that should be fired for his continuing counter-productive approaches to flying. His routine is that if someone calls in to the tower without a specific request (e.g. using the word “Landing”) he’ll say “Roger” and ignore them. This will go on for multiple transmissions with pilots unable to break the code as to what he wants them to say before he’ll give them any instructions. I’ve talked to him and it sounds like somewhere in his career he made an assumption (perhaps he assumed someone wanted to land but they didn’t) and was taken to the woodshed because of it. Regardless, I’ve seen him create an unsafe environment countless times because of his pettiness. Thank goodness there’s only of him–and that every other controller I run into these days is working hard to give good service.

  32. inmate # 040910 Says:

    Been working as a controller at ZAU for 24.5 years and have seen it all. I would like to pre-emptively APOLOGIZE to any pilots/co-pilots/jumpseaters/channel 9 listeners for any unprofessional sarcastic transmissions I may have issued due to the stress involved in dealing with – 1) newly certified 25 yr. olds more concerned with updating their Facebook page every break (“Jimmy thinks the old controllers should chill-ax and not yell at me just because I turned an aircraft direct LMN after giving them a point-out on a guy direct IRK”) 2) Supervisors who never actually certified on all positions and were on the verge of washing out before they got promoted, who are subsequently confused by both 4 syllable words and “RAS” in the 4th line of a datablock and wondering what that destination is (it’s “reduced air speed” asshat) 3) Recently promoted to QA personnel who never certified and were famous for calling UPSET61 “U-P-S Echo Tango 61” now reviewing my tapes. This list of foolishness is endless. I need to sit down.


  33. Hogarth Says:

    “Honestly though folks, the more vehement and the more personal this discussion becomes the more questions it is raising in the minds of the public, I think.”

    Really? I think the explanations and invitations to meet/talk/listen from the “other side” have shown far more credibility than your steadfast refusal to do so. Seriously, I think all of my questions have been adequately answered.

  34. Brian Says:

    Quite the debate. As a total outsider to the event, but having much experience with controllers around the world… these things happen. More often than not, it’s a lack of communication by one of the parties.

    I have read no unprofessionalism in this article, as it is the opinion of a crew. However, I have read a few unprofessional comments about this article.

    The original writer has shown no malice. I don’t see why some individuals here are getting so defensive about this particular situation. The writer felt the situation was worth writing about. We also have the right to express out opinions and views as well. I just encourage all to express them as professionally (if not more-so) as originally written.

  35. LRod Says:

    Whew! What a lot of testosterone–from everyone. Full disclosure: I’m retired ATC. I got hammered for circling the ATC wagons at a local airport noise advisory board on which I served a few years ago, so I’m sensitive on the subject.

    But, let me just say this: When I was at ZAU I served 14 months in Quality Assurance. I cannot tell you how many times a controller who came into the office as a result of an incident was absolutely, positively convinced he’d said this or done that. Not a doubt in his mind (all opinion, of course). Then we played the tape.

    Nothing in one’s opinion or recollection counts until one has listened to the tape. One can defend one’s opinion until hell freezes over, but if the tape proves that one’s opinion is wrong, it’s still wrong…and indefensible.

    It seems to me such a simple solution. Maybe everyone at PBI is wrong in the assessment they made after listening to the tape. But in every case, it’s a more informed assessment than one can have if they haven’t listened to the tape, even if (and especially) they experienced the situation in real time.

    Listen to the tape. I don’t even care if you report back, but if you don’t listen to it, your opinion doesn’t even count as an opinion.

    ZJX, ORD, ZAU retired

    P.S. “UU” are your real life initials MI? We worked together.

  36. Eating our Young: The Final Flap About NWA 188 - Jetwhine: Aviation Buzz and Bold Opinion Says:

    […] the responses I saw to the NWA story weren’t nearly as acrimonious as some of those from my experiences in West Palm Beach, it was pretty clear that many of you thought I’d lost my mind. I won’t mention any […]

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