Nobody was hurt, but it made the news. A controller working the arrivals landing on Runway 27L at Atlanta [KATL] made a flippant comment on frequency, telling a flight on a five mile final to ‘Go Around’, then followed up just two seconds later saying, “I’m kidding,” and gave a clear response to the pilot’s earlier request.
It turns out the Boeing 777 flightcrew played the joke against the controller. They ignored the controllers subsequent transmissions and executed the ‘Go Around’. Here’s the transcript:
|15:30||DAL630: “Tower, Delta 6-30 heavy, DEPOT 2-7 left”|
|15:45||TWR: “Delta 6-30 heavy, Atlanta Tower, wind 2-3-0 at 1-4, runway 2-7 left, cleared to land”|
|15:50||DAL630: “Cleared to land, 2-7 left. Uhh, we do not have a gate yet so you might want to figure out some place for us to park while we sort it out”|
|15:56||TWR: “Delta 6-30 go around”|
|15:59||TWR: “I’m kidding. Delta 6-30, after your landing I’ve got no one behind you. Expect to exit right the second high-speed we’ll… we’ll hide you out somewhere down by Papa”|
|16:10||TWR: “Delta 6-30 you copy?”|
|16:11||DAL630: “Sorry, say again ?”|
|16:13||TWR: “Expect exit the second high-speed November Two… Delta 6-30 you’re cleared to land runway 2-7 left”|
|16:19||DAL630: “You sent us around. Delta 6-30’s on the go”|
The audio can be heard at this link at LiveATC.net. Times in the above transcript reflect the timestamp on the LiveATC audio.
The table at the bottom shows the flight data, from FlightAware. In the altitude column, the flight is shown stopping its descent at around 2,400′ altitude (which puts it roughly 1,400′ above the ground, since the runway is at roughly 1,000′ altitude MSL). The pilot had just reported a fix called DEPOT. According to the published RNAV Runwy 27L approach (see the scrap above, showing the profile for the final 9-miles of the approach), pilots will ideally cross DEPOT at 2,800′. So, the data at FlightAware appears to be accurate, and the flight was roughly 1,400′ AGL and five miles from the runway when the Go Around was initiated. The table below also shows that the extra turn in the pattern (with a climb to 4,000′) cost approximately seven minutes total flying time.
Was there a hazard here? No, not at all. Could this aircraft have easily made a safe landing from that height and distance. Absolutely, and most pilots would have. Was it a bad joke? Yeah, a little, but not that far from the banter controllers and pilots use all the time. And did some in the media blow this out of proportion. Yes, WAY out of proportion.