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American Airlines Pilot Union Trying To Cover For Crew In New York Near-Disaster

On January 13, an American Airlines Boeing 777 headed to London taxied on the wrong runway as a Delta 737 began its take off roll. This was nearly a disaster of epic proportions, as the American jet crossed right in front of Delta, and the Delta plane hit the brakes. ( More...

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Kent Wien 21
Headline should read “Anonymous AA Pilot tries to defend pilots in New York near disaster.” The APA has said only that we should wait for the investigation to conclude.

Don’t blame the union for one Pilot commenting on an article.

There is so much speculation in accidents and a lot of it turns out to be wrong. Be patient.
Greer Kemp 13
Hang on a sec... they were told to taxi to 4L but instead crossed it and were holding short of 31L - did they read back instructions correctly to depart 4L?
websanity 31
I listen to liveATC a lot in the background. Whilst listening to JFK I noticed two points:
1. The number of pilots NOT reading back hold short instructions is way too high (more than none is too high if you ask me).
2. Tower seem a lot more insistent that they get read back, and when they just get back a "hold short 4L" for example (sloppy sloppy sloppy), they insist that they get the call sign as well.
Pilots are paid a high salary for a high responsibility role - a tiny few need to act more responsibly and should have the book thrown at them if they don't.
In my personal opinion.
Tim Dyck 9
“…a tiny few need to act more responsibly…”
I agree it is just a tiny few that are responsible for the incidents that happen. But it is a job were it only takes one to create a disaster and unions should not be willing to sacrifice other people’s safety to protect that one.
Pat Barry 0
The frequency is so busy / congested tha it’s often too time consuming to do a full co-sign etc. but, you are correct. Usually a quick response is adequate but when there is a problem (like this one), the sloppy pilots get burned

[This comment has been downvoted. Show anyway.]

Squaker 7
The best course of action is to say nothing until the investigation is complete. This is the same union that continues to fight to keep the safety standards high (e.g. two pilots in the cockpit at all times and the number of hours to get rated). I support our pilots and holding our standards high, but I do think the union is doing more harm than good here.
John Taylor 0
The union isn't fighting for two in the cockpit for high standards of safety but for their own interests in keeping pilots as dues paying members. Some pilot associations (AOPA, etc) are the ones driving safety standards. The unions are just there to bully the companies.
John Taylor -5
The union isn't fighting for two in the cockpit for high standards of safety but for their own interests in keeping pilots as dues paying members. Some pilot associations (AOPA, etc) are the ones driving safety standards. The unions are just there to bully the companies. And in this case, as with many other industry's union, they're trying to defend the indefensible.
tsberry901 7
(Captain-male) AA mistakes: Not briefing the taxi route Not understanding the taxi clearance Missing the right turn to 04L (on K) Not confirming crossing clearance on 31L at K Not clearing (visually) (any) runway when crossing (especially when an aircraft is on a runway you are about to cross in takeoff position (or rolling) with it’s landing lights on. Poor SA (Kudos to Delta/ATC for good SA) (Sadly AA F/O was “along for the ride,” also with poor SA) ASRS will be submitted. Capt and F/O) will receive remedial training. Company (AA) will submit Operation Bulletin. NTSB will recommend more stop lights. FAA will try to “fix” the problem with another FAR? Public will forget whole incident after a few days.
ScottCurtis777 1
And what was the relief pilot on the jumpseat doing??? Their main job is to monitor the situation and advise the PF and PM if something doesn't look right, feel right, etc. We used to say "the smartest pilot in the cockpit" as they have the lowest workload of the 3 pilots (not taxiing the acft, on the radio with ATC, running checklists, etc) and the big-picture view of the whole situation.
Michael Osmers 6
Hasn’t anyone else noticed who wrote the piece? “Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel …” This is a points guy. There are some glaring omissions and the author implies without any corroborating evidence of gross negligence by the AA crew. RainbowRiver, Squaker and tsberry make some good points without jumping to conclusions. The transcript was not published in the article so we don’t know what the actual taxi clearance was. Could be the 777 needed the much longer runway 31L for departure and was taxiing as cleared. It could be they were cleared across that runway. It could be the wig-wags or runway occupancy warning system were inoperative. It could be the ground controller missed passing the taxiing aircraft to the tower controller. There are LOTS of mistakes that could have been made on both sides of the microphone. The point is, we don’t know nearly enough from the information presented. The author clearly passed judgment and isn’t a journalist or likely not even a pilot. Which is why the members noted above advocate waiting for the results of the investigation as do I. This, by the way is one reason of a number of good ones why pilots have unions.
robert henry 25
Well, I am curious on how they will fight this case. This crew was negligent in carrying out their duties. This includes the relief pilot and they should be at least grounded, reprimanded and retrained. The PM received and responded on 2 different occasions to taxi instructions, they crossed the wrong runway, although their aircraft alerted them to approaching the runway by name and lastly, the PM never paid attention to where the aircraft was going and should have corrected the PF. I doubt if she even looked right and just said clear right before crossing the runway. If she did, I bet she would have seen the bright lights rapidly approaching. I understand that they may be friends, but the union calling this a new procedure that they were not trained for is even more reckless.
Nathan Cox 4
Spot on. And on an international flight there was likely a 3rd pilot in the observation seat who should have been paying attention to where they were. The PM never looked to check her side. They should be grounded and retrained. Major major breakdown in procedures here!
lakemountain 10
How were they allowed to depart 30 mins later? Regardless of their state of mind (other than fear for their careers), surely the following should have been collected at a minimum:

- CVR / QAR for voice recordings
- Toxicology screening
- Crew interviews / debrief (before they get to collaborate on their evidence)
wayne holder 5
AA new that if they performed that flight the CVR evidence would be gone....does any of this sound familiar
Michael Osmers 1
The conversation is kept by the FAA as are all transmitted conversations with ATC.
ScottCurtis777 6
The FAA keeps the tapes of the radio calls, but the CVR recording also picks up any conversion in the cockpit, not just radio calls. That conversion between the 3 pilots (almost certainly lost because AA106 was allowed to depart, thereby over writing that portion of the CVR) would have most likely shed light on what was really going on in the cockpit of AA106. Was there confusion about the taxi clearance, the airport layout, a violation of sterile cockpit rules, etc. And as others have brought up, the mental condition of the crew after being informed about the near disaster they almost caused. AA106 should have never been allowed to depart after that incident.
Michael Foster 4
Without judgement and after reading a lot of the posts below, I would have to agree with those posts that stated that some pilots do not read back properly, and Center, Tower, and Ground controllers don't always hold pilots accountable for proper readbacks. The reverse is true as well. Pilots are hesitant at times to clarify with controllers their instructions, if in doubt. Did this happen in this case? We will find out upon results of the investigation. Or at least cast doubt on controller or pilots communications.
ScottCurtis777 1
If a pilot is in doubt about an ATC clearance, then ASK again. "I think" is not good enough, BE SURE. Radio calls are free.
Edward Ludwig 3
As a pilot/ flight instructor I always made it a habit to know where I'm going before I get there. If I'm flying into a high traffic airport with multiple runways I want to know everything about the airport and runway information. whether you have 100 hours or 10,000 hours, always read back your clearance with ID and don't be embarrassed by having to clarify the clearance. If in doubt stop and clarify.
John Barrer 2
It is way past due for the implementation of electronic transmission of textual (or graphical) ground control instructions at major airports such as KJFK. My "Gen z" son can type a 20-word txt message with his thumbs faster than a controller and pilot can mumble and read-back taxi instructions. In the case of ground control, the elements of a clearance are in a certain format and come from a limited set of phrases. with a well-designed interface (and there are many out there) the controller can create the clearance with a small number of keystrokes (or pen touches or voice commands) that can be sent via text or graphically. The crew can acknowledge with one key touch on their EFB after the taxi route appears on their iPad.
bfcoats2 2
The good: DL pilots and their SA, and the AA pilot union for supporting their dues paying members even when the pilots made such a profound mistake.

The bad: JFK ATC had cleared AA to depart runway 31L from a taxiway that was behind them, and ATC was also lax about obtaining a read back of hold short instructions due to frequency congestion.

The ugly: STOP! if you are the tiniest bit unsure of your position on the surface of an airport and get ATC’s immediate attention. Interrupt them if you must for this purpose. Ask for progressive taxi. Clarify anything that is unclear. And … LOOK OUTSIDE and only glance inside at your taxiway diagram and maybe the compass! I will admit that the airlines (with few exceptions) are terrible about requiring its pilots to make distracting briefings while taxiing. I’ve often questioned the wisdom in this. The airplane should be stopped whenever you are doing anything other than taxiing. Don’t program the FMS, don’t make any briefings/speeches, operational or otherwise, and don’t think about or talk about anything else except taxiing. This should apply to both pilots. I don’t even like running checklists on the roll. Just STOP for all that. Shame on the AA pilots for not doing this, and double shame on them for their departure afterwards! All three of those pilots should be fired and their FAA certificates revoked for not preserving the CVR. The CVR would have been the best evidence for learning what truly lead to such an unfortunate lapse in judgement and SA by these pilots. It’s hard to admit your mistakes, especially for pilots, but had they not departed thirty minutes afterward, I may have been in favor of extra training. Maybe an ASAP will save their certificates and give us a vague (at best) idea of why this happened. Either way, this is just U-G-L-Y-!
mary susan watkins 5
the pilots union ans well as the many other unions representing airline employees,does a very good job of protecting,and representing its members,no matter what the circumstances..they do everything from legal representation,to being at all hearings which might involve termination or investigation..with many carriers it is mandatory,and the pilots do pay a membership fee..the head of the union is usually a pilot or former pilot with knowlege of any process in which they are involved..when the faa is involved,their representation is of utmost importance to the pilots..i can understand why they would be "covering",but im sure there is more involved in this than we know..i DO remember what happened in the canary islands several years back,but that was a combination of weather,nisunderstanding of instructions, and the air traffic had tragic consequences..
Phil Nolden 18
As a retired AA Captain who was also a union rep for many years in our largest crew base, we don't "cover" for anyone and we don't "fight" cases. But we do ensure that there is no rush to judgement, such as the gentleman above, who already knows exactly what happened and has declared (without any actual knowledge whatsoever) that the crew was negligent in their duties. Thankfully for the profession, a full investigation will be conducted.

[This comment has been downvoted. Show anyway.]

Kenn Ortmann 8
JT, you want Ranibowriver to apologize for suggesting there should be a thorough investigation and no rush to judgement? DUH!
Tim Dyck 1
This incident could have had tragic consequences. Hence an investigation to find out what happens and ensure it cannot happen again.
jhakunti 4
careless incidents like these involving what should be experienced high time pilots is why we have 1500hrs prerequisite for menial pipeline patrol type jobs.
btweston 3
I didn’t know that it took 1500 hours to learn how to read letters and numbers.
srobak 1
and you still have to cross other runways and taxiways when heading to those pipeline patrols
John Taylor 1
I've seen a lot of complacency in regards to high time pilots and high year mechanics. It's easy to get lulled into a false sense of security after doing a certain job for a long time.
sparkie624 4
That is there job... To protect the idiots... I have worked in unions before... I found that I was much much happier when I went to Non-Union Airlines... Where everyone works together and not against each other... With unions you always have the You against us going on and that is never good. Working together always works better. But of course, Some companies need them because they do not respect their employees!
btweston 29
“That is there job... To protect the idiots...”

Anyone else get a chuckle out of this?
sparkie624 1
Oops.. not sure how this happened.. Double posted.. Sorry everyone.
William Noll 4
Reread the FIRST sentence.
loubearr 1
Peek-a-boo. Somebody should have looked out the window...
joepre 1
I have never flown out of JFK, but aren’t there big red lights at each crossing of active runways? I thought they implemented them to let pilots know this is an active runway!

[This comment has been downvoted. Show anyway.]

btweston 12
Yes. Equitable working conditions are the devil’s playground.
John Taylor 2
Equitable working conditions have been codified into law. The unions outlived their need a long time ago. Many years ago I worked at an airport near Gary, Ind, a huge steel town. It was union election time and there was a billboard for some guy (who I'll call Joe Blow) which said " Vote for Joe Blow. For the worker. Against the company." Now all those steel mills are closed and there is no company to be against nor jobs to be had. Way to go Joe Blow and your union.

[This comment has been downvoted. Show anyway.]

bill mcdonald 13
I hope they sued for wrongful dismissal. People like you are the very reason unions exist. You should never be in a position of authority. What an ignorant comment. BTW - what has this to do with flying?
Gloria Johns 3
I gave you an 'arrows up" agreeing with you, but the arrow thing isn't working right. But good on you!
Pilots Ijw -1
Totally an extreme right wing point of view
Gary Bain 1
To which comment are you commenting?
Gloria Johns 1
John Taylor -8
Ok Biden.
blueashflyer 1
Even the "Blessid Union of Souls" ? Cincinnati rock band from the 1990s?
blueashflyer 0
What about the "Union of Lublin" signed 1 July 1659 - an important document in the creation of modern day Poland?
Doug Parker -1
“Promising to work” while maintaining the elephant in the room of “threatening NOT to work” over the other's head never added up to what I consider unconditional positive regard. I liked the story of bus drivers who collectively protested by continuing to work while not charging riders... until management sat down and renegotiated. “Coerce unions to find a different, but better way to bully” is sort of my point, but I have no suggestion of what that might look like at the moment.

…but I am off topic.

How come I never saw a FlightAware post of the ground handler who was ingested into an engine last month, or did I miss that post?
Juan Jimenez 0
this is why I have no respect for the American Airlines Diva Union.
sparkie624 -7
That is there job... To protect the idiots... I have worked in unions before... I found that I was much much happier when I went to Non-Union Airlines... Where everyone works together and not against each other... With unions you always have the You against us going on and that is never good. Working together always works better.
John Eliopoulos 0
Jeffrey Bue 0
Unions doing what they do.
Leander Williams 0
Communication is lax at many airports. I watch/listen to several planespotting channels, and it amazes me how many times the tower has to ask a pilot to confirm readback instructions. I know if I were responsible for hundreds of lives I would definitely not leave anything to "I think I heard it right".
tj shear -3
Troll alert. Disregard any posts but John taylor
John Eliopoulos -4
Another reason to get rid of unions.


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