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Latest LAX ATC Error Reported on 29 Dec

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Latest LAX ATC Error Reported on 29 Dec

Old 1st Jan 2008, 17:07
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So can Mr Approach, or anyone else for that matter, clarify in what way is it pilot's error and not the controller's?
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Old 1st Jan 2008, 23:17
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Apologies to Mexicana I mis-read the post. It was American Airlines that taxied onto an active runway in contravention of the ATC instruction. (I assume the pilots checked the runway before entering and did not see the Mexicana aircraft?) The controller then either mis-heard or did not hear the read back but fortunately saw what was happening. I remember an earlier incident when a Gulfstream crossed in front of a departing Embraer, the E-jet pilots could be heard hyperventilating on the cockpit recorder.

In my part of the world what occurred would be a reportable incident, the controller would have been relieved from duty pending an investigation and the two airlines would be advised through the ATSB. Without adequate facts my guess is that the controller would have been found to have erred by not obtaining a correct read back, however this has nothing to do with guilt. The causes of the incident are many, starting with the "aviation unfriendly" design of LAX and including the American pilots apparent failure to comprehend the clearance. (Once again, if they are reading this post it is not your fault, it is the way the "system" works and it is the system that has to be changed. The days of pilot error and now controller error should be way behind us but regrettably in a lot of places in the world they are not)

To conclude, an investigation of this incident, coupled to the others that have happened before it, could theoretically lead to a recommendation, among others, from the NTSB that stop bars be introduced at LAX and operated in conjunction with radio instructions.

If everyone accepts incidents such as these as routine affairs then eventually the inevitable will occur. Pontification over...it's all about fixing the system!
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Old 1st Jan 2008, 23:36
  #23 (permalink)  
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Originally Posted by MrApproach
It was American Airlines that taxied onto an active runway in contravention of the ATC instruction.
Sorry, I am missing something here. How do you conclude that?

PBL
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Old 2nd Jan 2008, 01:00
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good grief

It seems obvious from the transcript that the tower made a mistake in clearing a runway crossing and take-off at the same time.
5 years ago before I stopped learning to fly I was taught it was ok to begin take off as soon as clearance was received and acknowledge while rolling, so it seems through situational awareness or not being ready to roll right away the MEX plane averted a potential disaster. Perhaps the AA plane also hung around short of 25R for similar reasons which prompted the Alaskan plane to clarify if the 25L runway was available for it which acted as a wake up call to ATC.
Anyway definately not a non event but perhaps a few sharp eyes were on top of it. Now back to lurking...

Last edited by 4potflyer; 2nd Jan 2008 at 01:47.
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Old 2nd Jan 2008, 03:29
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Another unknown is where was the Mexicana A319 when it was given takeoff clearance?

If they're using full length the hold short line is not at the departure end so it would take a short amount of time for the A319 to taxi onto the runway.

If you zoom in on the runway I believe it's the perpendicular line, not the 45 degree angled line, where you typically hold short. The perpendicular line is about a plane's length short of the hold short line and the black marks on the taxiway are the deposits from the idling engines sitting at the hold short line.

So instead of just doing a 90 turn onto the runway it requires a slight forward taxi followed by a long, sweeping, 180 degree turn. All of which takes time.
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Old 2nd Jan 2008, 03:45
  #26 (permalink)  
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Yawn,
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Old 2nd Jan 2008, 14:52
  #27 (permalink)  
 
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Point Seven,

I'm happy to stand corrected; you're there, I'm not. On the other hand I flew for over a decade in the U.S. West (but not into LAX, Runway-Incursion Capital of the World), so I likely have some experience which you don't.

Would you care to elaborate on your view of what went on and what would happen if this happened in the U.K.?

PBL
PBL

You are quite right in that you have much, much more experience of US airport operation that me. However, I am not prepared to elaborate on what happened, though, as all I have is what has been read on here. However, the facts of what happened ARE out there if the right people are asked the right questions: to the controller, what was the workload like, time in position, why do you think it happened, extraneous factors. To the crews, same sort of questions but all asked not with the intention of pinning blame on either crew or ATC, but to clearly define why this happened and what measures can be put in place to stop it happening again.

By all of this I don't mean stop landing planes, this is not an option faced by increasingly busy airports, but when a trained professional describes an airport as "Runway Incursion Central" (and PBL, I do not doubt you are right from what I hear), I have to wonder whether the strategy at LAX for dealing with the problem is successful.

And the overriding point of my post is that I can't see a proactive approach towards dealing with, what is most probably, the biggest single safety issue facing busy aerodrome operations today - and being proactive is the only way that as a community we are going to solve the runway incursion problem.

P7
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Old 2nd Jan 2008, 22:44
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PBL, I am only reading the post I don't know what really happened and I am not trying to blame anybody, however I quote:

"The traffic controller told the American Airlines pilot to stop before crossing the inner runway"

On the information supplied, they did not stop, hence, regardless of the incorrect read back not picked up by the controller, it was non-compliance.

As I (and Point Seven) also wrote, who was in the "wrong" is not the point, arguably lots of people have made mistakes here, including those that allowed the airport to develop the way it has. From memory there is even a label on the Jepperson charts that warns pilots that lots of incursions occur? What kind of cop out is that?

The only point of my post is that an investigation would try to discover such things as:
  • Why the pilots did not hear the clearance properly
  • Why the pilots did not see the Mexicana aircraft on the runway
  • If they did why did they not query it
  • (in Australia traffic lined up but holding has to be given as traffic information to aircraft cleared to cross the runway in front)
  • Why the controller did not hear the read back
  • Has this happened before on this taxiway
  • If so what are the common elements
  • Are there outstanding recommendations from the NTSB concerning such incidents and/or this location in particular

I won't go on but the aim of the investigation under ICAO Annex 13 (I think) is not to apportion blame but to prevent the incident happening again.
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Old 2nd Jan 2008, 23:08
  #29 (permalink)  
 
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But from the transcript provided in this topic it seems that someone (c/s missing) actually did receive a crossing clearance.
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Old 2nd Jan 2008, 23:12
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Again, point of information: a partial recording of the radio traffic is available, and it provides a different picture of the event than the summary of the same radio traffic given in the press.

12:46 (~0442:16Z) TWR: ... cross runway 25right, remain on this frequency
12:48 AA260: Cross runway (mumbles 25) right, remain on this frequency (this whole call has been reduced to a handful of syllables) American 260
The only way the account given in the press could be correct is if the first part of tower's call was preceded by "DO NOT". Then you'll be free to descend into the realm of debating what constitutes unambiguous phraseology when transmissions may be stepped on. In any case, the controller most certainly didn't tell them to stop.

The readback was largely a mumbled, pro forma affair. That is, in order to understand the words as pronounced, you had to be expecting them. So even if he had issued a "correct" clearance, it would have been difficult for the controller to rely on such a readback.

A cultural trait shared by Americans when encountering an obvious error is not to question directly, but to state the situation clearly in a question.

The same press source put the aircraft at 8000 feet from each other, at other ends of the runway. The Mexicana aircraft was not holding in position, so the AA crew would not have seen it on the runway.
There's no evidence either way to suggest what both crews did before clearance was canceled. There could have been something (when the scanner hops back to frequency, it sounds like MX129 just keyed their mics), or not.
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Old 4th Jan 2008, 07:03
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Mr Approach,
I am astonished that you have obviously read this transcript a few times now and still cannot see the glaring facts!!!
12:46 TWR: ... cross runway 25right, remain on this frequency
12:48 AA260: Cross runway (mumbles 25) right, remain on this frequency (this whole call has been reduced to a handful of syllables) American 260
12:58 TWR: Mexicana 129 wind 340 to 12 gusts 23, caution wake turbulence departing heavy MD10, runway 25R cleared for takeoff.
13:05 MX128: cleared for takeoff 25R Mexicana 129
(another side point that bugs me is "caution wake turbulence". How does a departing a/c caution wake turbulence!)
Anyway, thats another thread.

Without knowing the exact circumstances of this incident, I am not judging anyone involved, but in general terms;

there is a simple rule in the UK - you dont clear an a/c for takeoff until the runway is clear. How on earth can you absolutely guarantee that no conflict will occur if the previous a/c has not yet vacated?
I would be hung out to dry if I used the above method. Yes, LAX is busy, but if you stay just ahead of the game and assert "control", you should not need to use such dangerous reliances on pilots getting it right. I agree that to be completely safe, you would have to limit movements to 1 at a time and therefore you have to draw the line somewhere with regards to trusting pilots, but clearing 1 for takeoff whilst another is crossing... expedition? Not on your nelly!
I work on the principle that even if you only have 2 movements, the law of sod dictates that they will probably conflict!
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Old 5th Jan 2008, 01:06
  #32 (permalink)  
 
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WAIFer --I am aware of the "glaring" facts as they have been presented on this thread, I am not aware of what the real facts are and, I say again, I am not trying to blame anybody. I am concerned that the apparent result of the investigation is that the controller failed to obtain a correct read back and will be retrained.

Pilot error plus retraining was the stock standard response to all aviation incidents until human factors experts woke everyone up to the swiss cheese model, amongst other things. There are reasons why pilots and, in this case, the controller made an error. No-one seems to be interested, once again, based on the contents of this thread, in fixing the problem.

As part of the traveling public can I now safely assume that the authorities believe that there is nothing wrong with the airport and nothing wrong with the procedures? A controller simply made an error will be retrained therefore it won't happen again!
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Old 5th Jan 2008, 16:38
  #33 (permalink)  
 
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Originally Posted by MrApproach
As part of the traveling public can I now safely assume that the authorities believe that there is nothing wrong with the airport and nothing wrong with the procedures? A controller simply made an error will be retrained therefore it won't happen again!
Based on the transcript supplied in post #9, I'm not even convinced there was a controller error; or if there was it was a very mild one. The MX wasn't even lined up (AIUI) when the AA was given clearance to cross, and when the controller saw the conflict he cancelled the MX takeoff.

Those who work at rather more leisurely airports may decry the tight operations at LAX, but they are both normal and necessary given the volume. When you are given an instruction at LAX etc. the expectation is you do it right now to keep things moving and not take your sweet time about it. Controller expected AA to have crossed and be clear before MX could have physically started his roll. When that didn't happen, he made the adjustment.

There is a LOT wrong with LAX, most of it related to the layout, but without a significant reduction in traffic these minor incidents are bound to happen. I no longer fly for a living, but I'm quite happy to ride the cushions into LAX relying on the professionalism of my (ex-)colleagues.
Bottom line: NBD.
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Old 8th Jan 2008, 16:56
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I believe there is possibly a fundamental difference in the way clearances are issued in the US compared to UK. The only concern I have is that should the controller become distracted with another call or who knows what else, then he or she may not be able to cancel the take-off clearance eg.
- someone's transmit switch may get stuck
- partial failure of comms prevents message being transmitted/received
- etc etc.

At the end of the day, whatever opinions people have, the fact remains that aircraft are not colliding with each other on a daily or even weekly basis in the US as a result of ATC ways. The current methods DO work. I have flown into many US destinations on vacation and will not hesitate to do so in future.
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Old 8th Jan 2008, 19:03
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I don't think the assumptions being made about US ATC practice are correct

ok I promised to pipe down but I can't help myself.

Since the controller was sent for some retraining it is clear that something out of the ordinary happened and should not have happened. It is not clear that the controller actually issued conflicting clearances however he/she ended up with a conflict on his/her hands.

To those imlpying it is normal (or legal) in the US to issue potentially conflicting clearances and then cancel one if a crunch looks likely - I have to disagree for the reasons stated; comms failure etc.
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Old 9th Jan 2008, 15:42
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The whole issue of what is safe or unsafe is a very complex one. ATC documents are full of procedures that cover the "what if" situations and as thorough as they are, there will always be new situations popping up that necessitate the writing of yet another procedure.

Some of the golden generation of controllers would argue that the manual of air traffic services should be just one page, which reads in bold USE COMMON SENSE!

What is common practise in one country will be alien to another, but at the end of the day we are all professionals and we rely on the skill, judgement and intelligence of everybody in the chain to not do anything stupid!
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