Report: ATC Error Covered Up


A mistake by an air traffic controller put two jets on a collision course as they approached Honolulu in January, and the incident wasn’t reported to FAA officials as it should have been, according to an investigation by Hawaii News Now. The close call involved a Japan Airlines 767 and a UPS MD11 when both airplanes were about 15 miles from Honolulu and approaching to land. The JAL pilot told the controller he received a TCAS alert. The 767 descended and the UPS crew climbed to avoid a collision. (Click here for the audio.) ATC employees interviewed by Hawaii News Now gave different explanations as to why the incident was not properly reported.

The FAA learned about the incident from pilot reports, and five FAA officials traveled to Hawaii in February to investigate. They found that the controller on duty was relatively new, and had told supervisors he wasn’t ready for certification and requested additional training. After the incident, he was not disciplined but received more training and is back on the job. The facility supervisor, who has since retired after being placed on administrative leave during the investigation, alleges that union members at the tower “started making stuff up” about a “culture of fear” at the facility. An FAA memo said the supervisor was heard “yelling obscenities” at his managers after meeting with them, but the supervisor has denied it.