November 10 Near-Collision At JFK

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The crew of American Airlines Flight 28 asked to speak to air traffic controllers after a near-collision at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) in New York on Nov. 10. As illustrated in ATC recordings posted on YouTube at the You Can See ATC channel, their Airbus A321, on approach to JFK on a flight from Los Angeles, was cleared for the approach to Runway 22 Left at the same time a VFR Tradewind Aviation Pilatus PC12 was cleared for its visual approach to Runway 22 Right.

But the Pilatus, instead, lined up for Runway 22L, approaching the airport directly above the Airbus, where the crew of the low-wing Pilatus could have had difficulty spotting the airliner underneath them. Controllers were clear in their transmissions to both aircraft, several times pointing out that the two aircraft were supposed to be flying parallel approaches. When the controller issued vectors to the Pilatus crew to “intercept the localizer to Runway 22R,” the crew’s readback included “… intercept the localizer.”

As the approaches unfolded, the American crew asked controllers, “Where’s this Pilatus going?” to which ATC responded that the Pilatus was “landing parallel.” “He’s right above us,” was the response from American 28.

Shortly thereafter, ATC instructed the Pilatus crew to break off its approach, maintain 2,500 feet, and turn to a 180 heading, adding, “It appears you’ve joined 22L.” The Pilatus crew acknowledged the instruction and turned southeasterly. The American Airbus continued its approach and landed safely, as did the Pilatus after rejoining the approach queue.

Once on ground frequency, the American crew asked for a phone number for the ATC facility responsible for vectoring the Pilatus, saying, “Whoever gave the Pilatus clearance to land, we need to talk to whoever that was.”

The transcript of the subsequent phone conversation is not available.

Mark Phelps
Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

32 COMMENTS

  1. As a retired tower operator, I find it odd that, with only three airplanes within range on the radar, the controller did not catch the PC12’s missing the turn to final of runway 22R. I wonder how close the PC12’s track came to AAL28, while AAL28 was still northwest bound, but likely at different altitudes. I would have called the PC12’s attention to the traffic landing on 22L long before this situation had developed.

  2. American 28 wants to talk to the controller. I want to LOOK at them. With the new woke-ism permeating the entire US gub’ment, I have no faith that people in critical positions know what they’re doing, so from now on I want to see them, and then I’ll decide if I want to be on that flight. That’s the pilots; haven’t figured out how to vet the controllers yet ….

    • LOL Due to insurance changes I had to change dentists. My first visit to the new one, I was… concerned. She looked very, very young – mid-20s, about a decade younger than her technician. I said “UH OH! You look really young. Have you done this before?” She laughed a bit but I could tell it was not the first time she had heard something similar from a patient. But looks alone rarely tell the whole story. She did all right. Disclaimer: At my age, most people I encounter look very young.

    • ok grandpa
      Stay in your chair and have another cookie.
      The skies and aviation are safer than they have EVER been.

    • James Willis: What are your criteria for determining if the pilots and controllers, or for that matter, the cabin crew, mechanics, and ground personnel, are acceptable enough for you to board the airplane?

    • Because you can tell who is competent just by looking at them?

      And what the heck does someone’s political leanings have anything to do with being a good pilot?

    • My best friend, a long ago retiree from the banking (commercial lending) industry, a bona fide renaissance man and eschewer of all things tech once told me that he could distinguish a low risk loan client (one who would probably repay the loan) from a poor risk client “by the cut of his jib”. I think he and Mr. Willis were both graduates of Neanderthal State. GO DINOSAURS!

  3. You don’t, not a one of you, know why this happened. Keyboard commandos and savants crap up the conversation with the barest of facts. Prolly, a buncha DEI partiers aboard the Pilatus.

  4. There were two broken links in the safety chain of events: 1st, the predominant fault was because of the PC-12 pilots (and nobody else’s) in that they failed in their pilot in command duties to diligently focus on this critical phase of the flight. 2nd, it was the failure of the ATC person handling the PC-12’s approach phase, to adequately monitor the PC-12’s movement. However, had the PC-12 PIC focused intently on the approach and lined up on the correct runway, as the controller expected, the controller would not have needed to monitor the PC-12 as closely. This is an example of “expectation bias”.

    The root cause of this near miss lay with the PC-12 pilot in command. Unfortunately, there is no EASY way for leadership in the FAA to deal with “distracted” pilots & controllers. However, just as in “distracted” driving, it is extremely difficult to stop “distracted” moments in people’s behavior whether flying or controlling. The work-performance discipline developed with increased training is the only way, we have presently, to improve.

  5. When ATC first started allowing parallel approaches to parallel runways, the intent was to stagger turns to final which would solve several problems inherent in this procedure. My problem with parallel approaches has always been failure to adhere to this staggered turn procedure.

    Even during VMC, simultaneous non-staggered turns to final are dangerous because you have two crews intent on runway alignment but are “belly to belly,” which makes it difficult to establish/maintain visual contact. One wrong move and you have a tragedy.

    Now add in FAA’s desire to do this in IMC! As a line pilot for a major airline, I attended a meeting with a controller (management) and asked that question directly and got a direct answer. “Controllers WILL NOT allow two aircraft to turn final simultaneously at the same distance from the runway.” Of course, in practice this didn’t happen. Now, I won’t go into the plethora of procedures established to make this unsafe procedure safe, but suffice to say, procedures don’t ensure safety unless they are adhered to by all parties involved. (Hey airline guys: remember the “No Transgression Zone?” What a joke!)

    At some point we just have to accept the fact that being truly safe will require some delays. Say that to airline management types or politicians and watch their heads explode.

  6. The controller described the Pilatus as VFR traffic but I never heard him clear him for a visual approach to 22R. He was told to join the localizer for 22R which is an interesting instruction for a VFR aircraft. It seems to me the controller was vectoring the Pilatus to create space between him and the Delta 757, who were both at 2,500’, and in doing so sent the Pilatus east of the final approach course for 22L toward the AA321. I never heard the controller point out the 321 to the Pilatus who was 500’ above the 321 and likely couldn’t see him. With both aircraft east of the center line for 22L he put the Pilatus on a heading of 310 and the 321 on a heading of 260. No wonder they were so close to each other. I have to assume he was basing his separation on the 500’ altitude separation but never told either pilot that’s what he was doing. The Pilatus pilot made a mistake but the controller was very lackadaisical in his handling of the situation and the AA pilot didn’t help things by forgetting his callsign and what runway he was assigned to.

  7. For those confused about shifting runway numbers, take a look at KSJC in San Jose.. There are 3 parallel runways, and the left-most runway (closed a while back to discourage little aircraft) was numbered “29” rather than have 28L, 28C and 28R.. Since the runway numbering is only an approximation of magnetic heading, and has changed when magnetic fields shift (KOAK- Oakland renamed 27R/L to become 28R/L) the idea of renumbering one at LGA isn’t ridiculous. Still no excuse for the Pilatus pilot(s), who will undoubtedly be enjoying some down-time…

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