ATC radar scope
4 min read

Like most of us, I always regarded ATC as my best friend, always there to help and guide me, a calm and trusted resource. As you will see, that all changed one spring day in Oregon. Now I am more likely to think of them as the Air Traffic Cops and, sadly, I don’t think of them anymore as my friends.

ATC radar scope

The radar scope doesn’t lie–but what is ATC’s responsibility?

Upon landing at Corvallis, Oregon (CVO), I made my final call to Cascade Approach to cancel my IFR flight plan and that was when I heard the dreaded words: “I have a number for you to call, advise ready to copy, possible pilot deviation.”  As soon as she said it, I knew exactly what it was about and I guess I thought I was going to have to eat a bit of humble pie and express remorse, but it really was not a very serious transgression and I never expected the consequences that would follow my call to Cascade Approach.

On the way up to Oregon from my home in Northern California, I was flying my Bonanza at 10,000 feet just to the south of Eugene (EUG) under IFR on a beautiful sunny day with no cloud and a million miles visibility. “N8TS descend and maintain 6000”–that was an easy instruction with no ambiguity.

I dialed 6000 into the S-Tec and pressed the buttons and down we went. Unfortunately, as I was later to realize, I had pressed the VS but not the ALT button, the consequence of which was that we continued down through 6000. Oops, mea culpa, bad mistake and a great lesson in complacency. As it happened I was watching the jet that was taking off from Eugene way below me and accelerating and climbing several miles ahead of me and got kind of distracted.

At 5500 feet I realized my mistake and started my climb back up to 6000 just as ATC came on the radio and asked my altitude. Probably lacking judgment but in the interests of honesty, safety and talking to my friends I said that I was at 5600 climbing back to 6000. She asked me to expedite my climb and that was that.

As was later confirmed by the ensuing FAA investigation, there was never any loss of separation, the jet was miles away and thousands of feet below, but I was careless and did bust my assigned altitude. Little did I realize the months of stress that were to follow that one moment of inattention.

The lady at Cascade Approach had asked if I would call back to discuss the incident with the supervisor. Prior to that call I talked with AOPA Legal who advised me to come clean and accept responsibility and said that I would probably just get a slap on the wrist. I also visited McDonald’s to find a WiFi hotspot and filed an ASRS report.

My call with Approach was a bit strange, in that I was talking with someone but could hear someone else in the background giving him instructions of exactly what to say. I did as advised by AOPA, expressed regret, accepted responsibility and said that I had learned from the experience and was very sorry for any inconvenience that I had caused them. The message relayed back to me from the voice in the background was that they would be passing a report to the FSDO and any further action would be out of their hands.

Having talked with ATC acquaintances, I understand that this was the point at which it could have been handled “in house” and that would have been an end to the matter. There was no loss of separation, no harm–no foul, and a valuable lesson learned by an experienced but somewhat complacent pilot.

But, just like the Highway Patrol who writes a ticket instead of giving a warning, it was destined not to be. And so began several months of forms, statements under penalty of perjury, investigations, copies of license, logs and medical and many sleepless nights. It was all handled very professionally by the FSDO and the Regional Counsel, but you really have to go through an experience like this to understand the pressure that a formal investigation by a government agency puts on you. In the end the FAA issued a Letter of Warning that will be expunged from my record in two years.

I am not quite sure who the winner was in this scenario. The FAA didn’t gain anything but spent an inordinate amount of time and money achieving not a lot, I didn’t gain any additional knowledge or skill that I hadn’t already acquired from the salutary lesson of the experience itself, and most importantly ATC lost a friend.

Is this incident, as Stephen Gray describes, one in which there was “no harm, no foul?” You be the judge and jury. Is this a case of bureaucracy run amok or did this pilot get what he deserved?

Stephen Gray
Latest posts by Stephen Gray (see all)
54 replies
  1. Dan Bierwirth
    Dan Bierwirth says:

    This is a prime example of your tax dollar working at its finest. Thats all I’m going to say… If I keep going I’ll be questioning the controllers heritage etc.. and making a bigger fool of myself then he made of him/herself, (the voice in the background).
    I’ve been in the authors shoes, but as a newly minted Pvt Pilot at 17 years of age. It’s scary, they put me through the ringer. I’m 57 now and I remember it like it was yesterday. I was terrified. OH and I really deserved it… I pulled a boneheaded move involving a new girlfriend and some very low level manuvering over a very populated area… Not one of my better decisions looking back on it. Neither was the girl come to think of it. HUH?

  2. Matt Mercer
    Matt Mercer says:

    As Ronald Reagan once said “the 9 scariest words in the English language are ‘I’m from the Government and I’m here to help.” Power corrupts and, sadly, some of the faceless gov. bureaucrats enjoy watching good citizens suffer. Fortunately, the vast super-majority of ATC do care, have common sense, are helpful and do understand that people make mistake–all the time. Most ATC folks treat you with respect, and the respect is mutual and deserved by both sides. It’s a partnership that works for the most part. Mr. Gray is clearly a good guy and a good pilot. The faceless interrogation by those FAA people involved was unfair and unfortunate bringing a bizarre level of gravity and worry to the situation that was not warranted under the circumstance (he did not violate a presidential TFR, for example). It convinces me we need fewer gov. agencies and fewer agents and less funding for these agencies in all parts of our government. Those gov. folks involved here in his case should get off of their power trip and remember that Mr. Gray is the customer—all pilots, all of them, will make mistakes from time to time. The guys who put him through those months of worry, paperwork, etc. need a hobby and should be ashamed of their disproportionate over-reaction. I’m glad he shared his story with us. I also hope he will continue to fly a lot and have enough positive ATC experiences that will convince him most ARE friendly but a few are bad apple power addicts.

    • Dan
      Dan says:

      I suppose you would rather have everybody up there “on their own” and no controllers whatsoever. In over 40 years of dealing with ATC, I have had so few instances of conflict that I could list them on one hand. This pilot violated the altitude restriction, period. People can die when “errors” like this happen. They have a responsibility to protect our lives and I’m glad they they are there.

      • Don
        Don says:

        This was an overreaction by the controllers, period. A 400 foot deviation with no loss of separation in CAVU?
        All this time, money and aggravation for what? What lesson was learned, we all make mistakes, but lets have the punishment fit the offense. In 40 years of instrument flying I have made my share of mistakes, I have also had controllers give me wrong headings, vector me for the wrong approach and just plain forget they were handling me. No reams of complaint forms, I just work it out with them, NO HARM NO FOUL! The sky is very safe, lets keep it friendly also, or we will see our numbers become even smaller than they presently are.

      • bryan esterly
        bryan esterly says:

        I guess you have relatives working these areas. The man said after all wasted effort nothing was gained. Very typical.

      • EMW
        EMW says:

        Dan, “We have too much…” is far different from “We should have none at all.” We have too much regulation, in flying and in almost everything else. Yes, we still need regulation. Your, “I suppose you would rather have everybody up there “on their own” and no controllers whatsoever,” is non sequitur.

  3. Eliacim Cortes
    Eliacim Cortes says:

    While most ATC people are wonderful partners to us pilots, there are a few that will abuse their power, pursuing inconsequential technical violations. Perhaps they should be required to log 10 hours, or so, of IFR cockpit time (not as pilots, of course) before they are certified to work as controllers.

  4. John Zimmerman
    John Zimmerman says:

    I’m no expert here, but didn’t ATC recently implement some new policies and procedures on this? Whereas once a controller could let something slide, I think his leash is pretty short these days with their Automatic Reporting Tools. It’s supposed to make better controllers, but it ends up reporting small things.

  5. John Hawkins
    John Hawkins says:

    /rant on
    With the departure of experienced controller and the influx of new ones with no real interest in aviation just a high paying job, this is to be expected. 9/11 has only made it worse. I’m sure the controller want to protect themselves. This only one more example of a society overcome with lawyers and computers. Everything has become more complex and use of rational thought is not allowed.
    /Rant off

  6. Alexei Tsekoun
    Alexei Tsekoun says:

    I second John Zimmerman’s question. I recall there was some recent change in procedures/policies that dramatically reduced the discretion afforded to controllers and front-line supervisors. Does anyone have any concrete info on this?

  7. Jeremy
    Jeremy says:

    I had to step in and respond from an ATC’s perspective. John Zimmerman is correct in that we do have more of a “tattle tale” system in place, but it is mainly designed to point out when we have true losses of separation that we don’t report.

    With safety being the biggest keyword in the Agency, any deviation or variation in the NAS is cause for concern to those in Washington. We’ve been in the news way too much in the last couple of years, and a job that used to go quietly unnoticed is suddenly in the spotlight, and Washington has to make concessions to that effect. As a result, we have to report everything or risk losing our job over something we might see (as appears to be the case from this story) as otherwise unworthy of reporting — kind of a “no harm, no foul” scenario. Because reporting requirements have recently changed, we have to get more info, because the Agency wants as much data on what’s happening in the NAS as possible.

    Before this gets blamed on all of the newbies, I must say that we have a large number of our “old guys” that have no interest in flying, much less learning how to fly; but they know how to do the job, and they do it well.

    We aren’t the air traffic police. Everything we do is in the interest of safety and our career.

  8. Roger Leuthner
    Roger Leuthner says:

    I too regard ATC as that “friendly helper on the radio”. It’s too bad that the controllers involved did not (or could not) let this transgression slip, since it did not involve an actual separation loss. It sounds like you may have caught a bad break, and been used as a training example – if so, luck of the draw.

    That said, I would like to point out that separation requirements under IFR may be “500 feet vertical” (for example in Class B), so 500 feet of deviation is indeed a potentially serious matter.

    You fessed up to it, nobody got hurt, but a potentially fatal incursion happened. The controller “maybe” could have let it go, chose not to for whatever reason. Before calling ATC a permanent foe from now on, ask yourself “how many times has ATC helped me out or otherwise ‘let something go’?”.

    Sounds like the result was a major hassle for you, but perhaps, just this time, you can give them a pass on it since for whatever reason they chose to go the hard way. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard of an IFR pilot catching the heck for a 500′ altitude deviation.

  9. Mike Dimiceli
    Mike Dimiceli says:

    I am a sport pilot and I would not run into that particular situation, but, it always nice to know that if you make a mistake, there will be someone there to remind you that you should be more careful. My take would be that any mistake in the air has the possibility of causing loss of life. I work very hard at being safe and have seen many mistakes made by other pilots and have had to take evasive maneuvers. A the same time, I am sure I have made mistakes that others have seen and have had to watch out for me.

    I am sure that in flying, just as in driving, we all need to watch out for the other pilots or drivers in order to stay safe and alive.

    I am a 750 hour pilot and 69 years young, and I feel I am not ready to leave my present life so there is no vanity and not much I will not do to stay healthy and alive. If I have to change directions to avoid a conflict, than so be it. I talk to myself and get grumbly and yell at the other guy, but I always give the other guy the right of way, no matter what. I may get mad and cuss and yell, but I stay out of harms way as best I can. I like my life, and I respect the other guys life.

    • Stephen Gray
      Stephen Gray says:

      The main benefit (and my prime reason for filing it) is that if the FAA had decided to take certificate action, the timely filing of an ASRS report would mean that I would not have had to serve any suspension. In this case as they only issued a warning it didn’t really have any benefit to me.
      I understand that from the FAA’s perspective the primary purpose of the report is to provide feedback for safety purposes and that this immunity provision is only an incentive to provide that information without fear of the consequences.

  10. Doug Moler
    Doug Moler says:

    I am a retired airline captain with over 25,000 Hrs. I’ve flown everything from J-3s and helicopters to 747s and currently live on a great airport comunity full of many types of small aircraft and numerous experiimentals. From what I’ve read here, including most of the comments, I might remind you that flying is not for sissies! Keep your situational awareness, attend available recurrent training workshops, and abide by the rules to keep all of us safe out there. AND STOP WHINING!!!

  11. Michel Samson
    Michel Samson says:

    I do think that controllers are our friends. However this appears to be an overly harsh punishment considering the circumstances of what happened. Controllers make mistakes too, all the time. I think both pilots and controllers have to work together to catch each other’s mistakes before anything serious happens. Two sets of eyes are better than one, and no one set of eyes is perfect all the time.

  12. Jay
    Jay says:

    I have read the article and all of the comments to this point. Here’s my take on it.

    No, I do not think the author would rather have everybody up there “on their own” and no controllers whatsoever.

    The main point in my opinion is that nothing USEFUL was done by the FAA. What was the purpose of having the pilot mail in copies of his certificate and medical? The FAA already has those, right? The purpose of the run around was to turture him.

    Instead of months of paperwork (at taxpayer expense), it would have been much more USEFUL (ie. positive) for the FAA to say, “Hey, we appreciate that you fessed up. We’d like you to take 2 hours of instruction in Class C airspace.” That would have taken a lot less time and expense, and would have been USEFUL, instead of just being a big hassle which did absolutely NOTHING to improve SAFETY.

    I made a lot of mistakes in my training. The solution was not for my instructor to scare and intimidate me. The solution was for him to say, “Reread the chapter on crosswind landings and next time we’ll spend some time in the pattern”.

    • Stephen Gray
      Stephen Gray says:

      You make a very good point. I did, in fact, take a flight with my instructor to review the use of the autopilot. I found it a very useful refresher and a valuable exercise.

  13. Lloyd Bunbury
    Lloyd Bunbury says:

    I am a 600 private pilot who always flies VFR in good conditions. My wife is also a pilot and we make a point of checking the actions of the PIC no matter who is flying the plane. My wife would be all over me for a one hundred foot deviation from an assigned or planned altitude, never mind five hundred. We error on the side of safety on every flight and five hundred feet is just plain sloppy flying for VFR or IFR. I won’t comment on ATC other than to say I’d rather have them than not. They too make mistakes and I believe that when they are significant they are investigated, and rightly so. Lesson learned, move on…

    • Stephen Gray
      Stephen Gray says:

      Unfortunately on this particular day my co-pilot was my little Yorkie “Agapanthus Mayhem”. She may have noticed the altitude deviation but, probably due to her lack of a headset and mic, was unable to alert me to it.

  14. Jack
    Jack says:

    Several years ago I did the same thing, only in reverse. I was coming out of Morristown, NJ in an unfamiliar airplane. I commanded the altitude in the flight director but not the auto-pilot. Got distracted with an oil temp that seemed to be climbing and flew right through the assigned altitude. As I recall, center called me and questioned my actions when I exceeded a 300 ft deviation.

    I didn’t not get a telephone call but several days later received a certified letter from the FAA. On advice of AOPA I replied in writing stating the circumstances, my experience, my training history, etc. A few weeks later I received a letter telling me the matter was closed. I think it was a kinder, gentler government (FAA) in those days.

    • Eric
      Eric says:

      Several years ago, I had an attitude indicator die and I had a 200 ft deviation. I filed an ASRS report but never heard boo from FAA. In light of Jacks comment, I guess that the dividing line between a “deviation foul ” and “not a deviation foul” is somewhere between 200 and 300 ft.

  15. Scott James
    Scott James says:

    Grow up and quit whining. In Georgia there are towns where you don’t go five miles over the speed limit, and in ATL you don’t drive under 75. That’s life, no one said it is fair! They gave you a Warning, go on down the road.

    • Stephen Gray
      Stephen Gray says:

      I am sorry if my account came across as whining. It wasn’t what I intended, but you make my point very eloquently. The reason you don’t go more than 5 miles over the limit in GA is because of the actions the cops will take if you do. It was only this incident that made me equate the actions of our friendly and always helpful highway patrol who I am always delighted to see in my rear view mirror, knowing that they are only there to keep me safe, to those of ATC.

  16. Kerry
    Kerry says:

    OK, from a new pilot, just at 110 hours today. It would be great if the persons involved could be contacted to see what they were thinking and why they took the action they did. Without that this is speculation that could be way off base. I have had ATC cover me by getting a clearance when I was clipping a corner of Delta airspace so I didn’t violate the airspace. I was distracted while climbing out of another nearby Delta and dealing with Bravo approach. That controller was taking care of me and I appreciated it. A lesson learned and a mistake I will not make again. So far I feel that ATC is helping me but I still need to be sure and help myself :)

  17. Doyle Frost
    Doyle Frost says:

    With all the new (trainee) controllers, from what I read, it is very possible that was who he was talking to, and the (supervisor) decided to use this as more training. Supposition on my part, granted, but, from what I read, there is a lot of beaurocracy in play, and that just slows things down, as well as distracts from the REAL purpose of the FAA.

  18. Tony Fletcher
    Tony Fletcher says:

    Thanks for posting this article. It takes guts to document a mistake that all pilots can learn from. As a rookie with <150 hours, I found the entire story very interesting. Thank you.

  19. Nate_fl
    Nate_fl says:

    I would recommend that everyone read Bob Gardner’s excellent book “The Complete Advanced Pilot”, especially the section titled “The Snitch”. The controllers have very little control (pardon the pun) over the what happens once a deviation is flagged by the computer. The guy in the background was probably the ATC area manager, who gets the deviation alert automatically.

    I don’t like hassles and having my actions questioned any more than the next man. In my six years of flying I think I have made every mistake short of actually flying drunk or bending metal. The fact is that we undertake a serious business every time we leave the chocks, and the public has every right to demand scrutiny of our actions, through a lawfully empowered government agency. The truth is that ATC is a cop to an extent, but like every cop ever told me, “I’m just doing my job.”

  20. Derrick A
    Derrick A says:

    As a retired ATCS, and active pilot,,

    From what I can see in the article, I agree with the author that this “appears” to be an over-reaction.

    Having said that, keep in mind that the ultimate decision to proceed beyond the phone call – “no harm/foul stage” does not rest with the controller. This was obviously a management decision.

    So please, keep this in mind with your comments regarding ATC as friends vs foes,,
    The system works because of mutual respect and cooperation between ATC and the pilot,,, and there are situations, on BOTH sides of the mike that are beyond the reach of either the ATCS or pilot for that matter.

    We don’t have the details of what exactly transpired in the radar room during the incident, what new local policies may have been in place, who may have been observing at the time, management directives, etc.

    But for the most part, 99.9% of controllers would prefer NOT to have management involved in these types of situations, provided there was no loss of separation and the pilot appeared to be contrite.

    It’s okay to feel as if the system was “out to get you” and I suppose as a pilot, the big picture requires us not to separate the controller from the system,, all I am suggesting is keep the rhetoric focussed and remember the controller in the trenches, has limits to there “sphere of influence” beyond the scope.

    Just my two cents

  21. Hugh
    Hugh says:

    What’s interesting here is if he had cancelled IFR and went VFR or even VFR flight following he could have done as he pleased with a million miles vis and been legal. I’m not familar with the area but at 10 K it sounds like non bravo airspace. The fact that he’s willing to file IFR and maintain currency should count for something. Oh and respect to the airline pilot, I mean that: I hate whining too but this is really not; I see it as an opportunity to learn from others that have done things I have not yet had a chance to do but will eventually. Now that I’m older, have planes and a little money to put gas in them.

  22. Mel Eaton
    Mel Eaton says:

    ATC is your friend. The fact that you’ve had a ‘bad experience’ doesn’t change that. Remember when your in trouble they always help. Your experience is not a cause for divorce. Put away your pride and fly safe.

  23. Mike Yanez
    Mike Yanez says:

    I feel that the era of “no harm/no foul” is over when it comes to ATC. With big brother able to peek in on a controllers scope at any time, you can expect the inevitable “call this number” when things do not go as planned. Personally, ATC is not necessarily my “friend”, but rather a resource in which I will leverage to execute a flight safely. Am I dismayed at how the author of this piece was treated by the system? Absolutely! Am I surprised at the amount of time and tax dollars the FAA spent in investigating this honest mistake? Not really. This is the unfortunate reality in which we pilots must now contend with and face.

  24. Patrick Collins
    Patrick Collins says:

    A few months back departing IFR in a 182, following a older 172, I felt that I was getting to close on the climbout. I was seconds from receiving my clearance turn to depart and resume my flight plan navigation, so I initiated a slow bank to assist in the seperation, while keying the mike to relay to departure why i was “deviating” from my climbout clearance. The controller immediately tore into me for my decision to assist in keeping the skies safe and gave me a number to contact when back on the ground. I contacted the tower once back from my flight and described the situation,went home and filed a NASA report. Myself and the other aircraft were the only two airplanes in the sky at that time, so that is why I made my decision to do what I did. Was I wrong, yes and no, was what I did unsafe, no, was what I did the right decision to make in the situation, I say yes and would probably do it again if it ever arose. Would ATC rather explain why two aircraft came together for not making the decision themselves or should they say . “hey great job keeping our airspace safe”. Other than this incident, I have nothing but heaps of praise for the work that ATC does.

  25. Terry Spurgeon
    Terry Spurgeon says:

    In all bureaucracy’s the work expands to fill the time available. Way too much hassle here – some use of discretion by the controllers was warranted here. Stop with the phone call as lesson learned!

    • Stephen Gray
      Stephen Gray says:

      Exactly the same as if I had been going Northbound (+1 degree) at 5500 VFR and not talking with anyone :)

      • George Dyer
        George Dyer says:

        I missed your reply earlier. You sound very cavalier about this situation. I understand why you got busted.

        My point was that I am cruising VFR at 5500′ and you were IFR, with an altitude assignment of 6000′, which you are legally required to maintain. Instead of taking responsibility, you change the argument by saying nothing would have happened if you had descended out of 6000′,to my altitude and also been “VFR and not talking with anybody”. You just don’t quit making excuses. If you are also cruising eastbound, what are you doing coming out of 6000′?

        The fact is you weren’t VFR. Just because it was VMC the day of your error, doesn’t suddenly mean you are allowed to operate as I was and get a special pardon from ATC.

        I also noted another reply you made earlier:

        “ co-pilot was my little Yorkie “Agapanthus Mayhem”. She may have noticed the altitude deviation but, probably due to her lack of a headset and mic, was unable to alert me to it”.

        If your dog could notice the altitude deviation, than means she was in the front seat. I suspect you are just trying to be funny, but I take it as further proof that you don’t take your piloting very seriously.

        IFR with a pet up front takes CRM to a new level.

  26. George Dyer
    George Dyer says:

    The author states:

    “As it happened I was watching the jet….and got kind of distracted”.


    “I dialed 6000 into the S-Tec and pressed the buttons and down we went. Unfortunately, as I was later to realize, I had pressed the VS but not the ALT button”.

    My comment:

    This pilot was flying IFR and not paying attention and he does not know how to operate his auto pilot. Being in VMC is no excuse.

    It’s unfortunate that he wants us to buy into his side of things because there was no harm done and to blame ATC. “…sadly, I don’t think of them anymore as my friends”.

    A pilot with an attitude, who doesn’t know how to operate the aircraft, is a bad mix.

    • Doug Resetar
      Doug Resetar says:

      Everyone’s a critic until they make a mistake, then they expect people to be sympathetic. I think the main point is, at the end of the day, time, money and other resources were wasted with no beneficial outcome. I think the best solutions are simple; a pilot makes a simple mistake, is honest and explains what happened, FAA requires one hour with CFII to Make sure pilot can correctly use autopilot. Simple, no investigation, everyone wins, govt. saves money, pilot may even learn something new about auto pilot. Everyone still friends.

    • Peter T
      Peter T says:

      George, I’m not sure who has the “attitude” here, but it sounds like you do! Lighten up (unless, of course, you’ve never made a single mistake in all your piloting life?)

  27. Mike H.
    Mike H. says:

    There are a few clues in the story as to why it played out as it did, but there is no “police mentality” among controllers or even supervisors. There are, however, regulations and reporting requirements. If the altitude bust set off the conflict alert in the facility, or worse, generated an RA for the jet climbing out, even if seperation was never actually lost (through dumb luck in this case), the requirement to report escalates the subsequent action up the line.

    Even so, the controllers, and even the “cops” at the FSDO are still your friends. I imagine if you were the pilot of a jet with an apparently runaway Bonanza attempting to descend into you, you’d appreciate that someone is making sure the “pilot” along for the ride is actually qualified and deserves to be in the seat.

    The controller is your friend; complacency is not.

    • Edd Weninger
      Edd Weninger says:

      Mike is correct. Once a conflict alert is activated in today’s environment, the situation is out of the controller’s, and even the supervisor’s hands. Reports need to be filled out and there are a large number of box’s to be checked off.

      When Mr. Gray screwed up, and the alerts activated, I’ll wager the ATC people said something like “Oh sh*t”, It’s a pain in the butt for them also.

      If you set off a traffic alert in the jet, more reporting requirements….

      If you chose to file IFR, play by the rules. If you do screw up, expect some consequences.

      And please, don’t sound so casual about pushing the wrong button on the auto-pilot.

      • Peter T
        Peter T says:

        What I’d be curious about, is whether the consequences are the same when ATC screws up? I’ll never forget the night I was doing an approach into Hawthorne (HHR), and the controller forgot about me, and let me go shooting through the localizer northbound. [For those of you unfamiliar with S. Calif, read: *directly into* the landing flow at LAX, a couple miles to the north]. Naturally, I made the turn and queried ATC, and got an immediate “cleared for the approach”, but I wonder of the controller also had someone say “we have a number for you to call”?

  28. Eric
    Eric says:

    Unfortunately it’s the “system” to blame here. The automatic “snitches” and scrutiny that controllers face these days has created a new system by which someone has to be at fault for a deviation. And if it’s not the pilot, it has to be the controller at fault and controllers have careers to protect and supervisors to answer to. Stated another way, everyone has to look out for themselves.

    So yes, I would agree, it’s not the same old ATC where you could have taken a tongue lashing on the radio and everyone then go about their business, but as far as who is to blame (if anyone), I’m not sure.

  29. Felix
    Felix says:

    You made a mistake. Everyone makes mistakes. The FAA definitely took this way too far. But I just want to say one thing: ATC isn’t your friend. Their job is to keep airplanes separated. When you make a mistake you create a situation where they can’t do their job.

    Your training is your friend. Your skills are your friends. ATC is very similar to a police officer. In certain situations you can call a police officer for help, but in other situations a police officer is there to give you a ticket (for example).

  30. Eddie Abel
    Eddie Abel says:

    Kudos to the author for putting himself on the firing line. I think some of his critics are a bit harsh. The entire debate exists because our expectations in general are now out of control. This debate would look very different if a pilot was given a pass today then went on to be suspected of causing a serious incident tomorrow.

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