Angry Pilot Lets NYC Control Tower Know He's Not Happy With How Terror Threat Delay Is Being Handled

It can be frustrating enough for passengers stranded on a flight that’s sitting on the tarmac at an airport, but even pilots lose their patience when no one will tell them what in the heck is going on. An American Airlines pilot lost his cool with the control tower at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport yesterday after terror threats delayed his airplane and another and communication basically broke down.

“Yeah, well, they need to get off the phone and give me some information now,” the pilot told the control tower, reports ABC News. “OK. I’m the captain of this airliner and I need information pronto.”

The control tower told the arriving plane it would have to wait where it was before deboarding passengers, but wasn’t explaining why. That was not good enough for the pilot.

Reports ABC:

“OK. We’re surrounded by emergency vehicles, there’s a reason for this,” the pilot is heard saying in the audio recording of the exchange. “Somebody’s got to give us the reason or we’re going to evacuate the aircraft. You got 60 seconds.”

“We have the information, can you possibly call [number blocked out]?” the control tower asked.

“Negative, I demand the information right now over a frequency,” the pilot said.

Finally at that point, authorities told him what was known about the situation. That flight and another were isolated and inspected because someone had called in a threat that could have either been a bomb threat or something to do with terrorists hiding in the planes.

Both flights were searched by officials, and eventually sent on their way when nothing was found.

Passengers said the pilot also filled them in on the situation, but that flight attendants remained calm during the two-hour delay.

Irate Pilot Loses Patience After Terror-Threat Delay [ABC News]


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  1. benminer says:

    I have never read about an instance where a threat was called in and there was an actual bomb that posed a danger. How about making itpolicy that nobody will respond to bomb threats anymore? The cost of these delays are astronomical, and I don’t think people who truly intend to blow up airplanes will call in a threat.

    • nodaybuttoday says:

      It’s the boy that called wolf effect. The one time they don’t respond it will be an actual threat. They just need to have really harsh sentences for people who do these things, something that makes someone realize that they the government is going to find and you punish you harshly, so maybe they shouldn’t do that.

      • RandomLetters says:

        I completely agree. Any situation of danger has to be handled as real until it’s proven it’s not. If a fire department had a lot of false alarms I’m sure everyone would still want them rolling out each and every time a fire was called in.

        Completely unrelated but every time I see your name I have to force myself not read it as noday-butt-oday. lol

        • selianth says:

          When my office building was having a ton of false fire alarms, the FD didn’t stop responding to each one, they just starting charging us a ridiculous amount of money every time they had to come to the building for no reason. Made us get the malfunctioning system fixed that much faster.

          • generic user says:

            When my apartment building kept getting fire alarms pulled in the wee hours of the morning, the fire department response time kept getting progressively slower. The first time everything was handled in about 5 minutes. Second time, 10 minutes. Third time about 45 minutes. There is nothing like a blaring alarm jarring you out of bed at 3AM on a Tuesday night to get you introduced to the neighbors. I don’t miss living in that building.

        • benminer says:

          That sort of thinking doesn’t consider the costs of providing the security. I believe the costs, both actual and in terms of inconvenices, frustratation, and wasted time of passengers, of post 9/11 air security far outweighs the benefits.

        • nodaybuttoday says:

          I’ve heard that before :P fortunately “oday” isn’t a word

      • crashfrog says:

        The one time they don’t respond it will be an actual threat.

        But so what if it was? We spend way too much time and money securing air travel, when by far the most dangerous part of any journey by air was the part where you had to drive to the airport. And that would be true in a world where we did absolutely nothing to secure air travel. There’s not that many people who want to bomb an airplane even if they could. Why bother with it? We could let people on the airplane with literally anything they wanted and it would still be, by three orders of magnitude, the safest way to travel.

        • 85% Real 15% Filler says:

          Negligence. Lawsuites. Lives. Money. Not neccessarily in that order.

        • nodaybuttoday says:

          You also have to look at what’s going on outside of this country. Car bombs, suicide bombings, massive terrorist group shootings, grenade attacks, terrorist group kidnappings. I am not saying airport security is working, but the FBI is able to stop attacks before they even get planned through tips, intelligence, etc. Several years ago there was an attack planned to blow up the Holland Tunnel, something that would have killed so many people but honestly could so easily be done. So obviously there tips, monitoring, and intelligence mean something and can help us avoid many attacks by terrorists.

          • Bill19014 says:

            It’s not necessarily the awesomeness of airport security and intelligence agents that’s sparing us from terror attacks. I believe a better case could be made that the terrorists they’re supposed to be protecting us from don’t exist. I don’t mean that in a 9/11 Truther kind of way; what I mean is that inside the U.S., there just aren’t a lot of people willing to sacrifice their lives for the cause. We know that TSA has a failure rate of 30-40%, and that people who carry many prohibited items onto planes aren’t detained; the items are just confiscated. So any hijacker or bomber should be able to succeed within three attempts on average.

            As to the terrorists that are caught, have you noticed that nearly all of them have made contact with FBI informants? It makes you wonder if in many of these cases the informants aren’t agent provocateurs, setting up folks who would have neither the means nor the motivation to carry out attacks. The New York Times had an excellent article on this not too long ago:

      • Kuri says:

        There are already huge fines and possibly jail time for it.

  2. Alan says:

    hell yeah, that’s what I’d want a pilot to do

  3. bluline says:

    Love that pilot!

    • StatusfriedCrustomer says:

      Bonus points to him for not cursing and swearing, which would have made him lose credibility.

      Extra bonus points if he would have broadcasted his communications with the Tower over the plane’s intercom :)

      • GitEmSteveDaveHatesChange says:

        Cursing an swearing is actually against policy, and I believe the law over a open frequency like that.

        • Marilius says:

          Not sure what it is in the US, but in Canada, swearing on a restricted radio frequency is (up to) $12,000 in fines, and depending on severity, up to a year in jail. It’s serious business.

    • NorthAlabama says:

      me too. that pilot deserves a raise. air traffic control was too stupid to realize the passengers and crew were the potential victims.

      atc was too concerned about other things, so i’m glad the pilot was there to keep them focused.

  4. ChuckECheese says:

    What a bunch of dick-swinging.

    • GitEmSteveDaveHatesChange says:

      How so? Pilot had a plane full of people freaking out because their plane was surrounded by police, and no one was telling them why. Passengers in a situation like that are totally able to overpower the crew or panic and people will be injured. All it takes is one person to see the emergency vehicles, believe they smell smoke, say they smell it out loud, and you will have a cabin full of people who also “smell smoke”.

      • ChuckECheese says:

        I believe the dick-swinging was on the part of the tower who wouldn’t talk – keeping secrets makes you more important you know. The pilot had to dick-swing back to maintain equilibrium. I think the pilot did the right thing.

  5. Alliance to Restore the Republic of the United States of America says:

    A motivated terrorist with GoogleMaps and some VOIP software could bring this country to its knees with nothing but this bomb threat tactic.

    Our government over-responds so much to bomb threats that probably 50 calls to airports, airlines, train stations, TV stations, schools, dams, military bases and government buildings would have the entire country locked down tight enough that enough business would stop just long enough to bring the entire country to a halt.

    They could magnify this effect exponentially if just one of those threats was actually real, thus turning one situation into the straw that broke our country’s brittle, fear-based, over-reacative back.

    Once terrorists figure this out for themselves we’re pretty much hosed.

    • AcctbyDay says:

      Good god what you say here makes so much sense and is scary as f*ck.

      It would be the ultimate game of hot potato.

    • CanadianDominic says:

      Any semblance of a coordinated attack would be a nightmare for law enforcement. A few well placed smoke-bombs on timers set to go off at the same time and date across the country could grind the US to a halt for a day or more.

      Any actual threats would cripple the infrastructure for extended periods.

      It really would be very easy. Anyone could do it.

      • lanman04 says:

        Which is why there’s not a real threat. If there WAS a real threat, someone would have done this.

        Or someone would have blown themselves up in the security line at an airport.

    • kc2idf says:

      “Once terrorists figure this out for themselves we’re pretty much hosed.”

      I think you just told them ;)

  6. Difdi says:

    I whole-heartedly agree with that pilot.

    If there is no emergency, then OF COURSE the airline/airport can provide things like air conditioning, snack/drink service, working bathrooms and a timely arrival/departure at the terminal.

    If there is an emergency, well, that’s what those inflatable slides are for. Any emergency that will stop a plane in place poses a greater threat to people inside the plane, than to people on the grass between runways.

    • GitEmSteveDaveHatesChange says:

      “Any emergency that will stop a plane in place poses a greater threat to people inside the plane, than to people on the grass between runways.”

      No it doesn’t. A burning tire that will not spread into the cabin, or even get smoke into the cabin is not as dangerous as the injuries that are almost always incurred when people use those slides.

  7. Banished to the Corner says:

    I hope all those passengers tipped the crew – esp. the pilot – on that plane.

    And BTW who do these threats get called in to? I always get stuck on the phone tree from hell, followed by 30+ minute wait, followed by either a CSR that can’t assist me or the call getting dropped.

    • Difdi says:

      Good point. I suddenly have this image of a plane boarding passengers, taking off, making an 8 hour flight, landing, offloading and parking the plane overnight…only to explode empty in the wee hours when the bomber finally gets off hold…

  8. KrispyKrink says:

    That’s not an angry pilot, that’s a responsible pilot in command of his plane. If he feels the people he’s responsible for are in danger and the outside dipshits aren’t giving him answers or a reason for sitting with their thumbs up their asses he can pull the plug and order the plane evacuated at his will. If anyone outside has a problem with that, they can go pound sand.

  9. dush says:

    Hey there could be a bomb on your plane! Sit tight for a while and wait around in that plane while we figure this out.

  10. Bill19014 says:

    So this is an ARRIVING plane? Do I understand this correctly? So we’re afraid the terrorists are going to blow the plane up now that it’s landed, so we’re making sure everyone STAYS ON BOARD? Or, now that it’s landed, the terrorists hiding among the passengers are going to hijack the plane and…taxi it down the runway to bump into the control tower?

    The stupid is strong on this one.

    Kudos to the captain of this plane.

    • madmallard says:

      not only that, the ground control was basically cutting off the ONE GUY in the aircraft with the most potential to help control the situation and basically trying to render him pointless.

      lotsa braincells working on that one…

      • Bill19014 says:

        Okay, upon reflection I’m feeling better about the guy in the tower. First, I would bet dollars to donuts that the original “tip” said nothing about a bomb–merely that some terrorists had hidden themselves in the wheel wells of these planes; the bomb thing was probably added later to save face. The guy in the tower doesn’t want to tell the pilot that because he knows it sounds incredibly stupid, so he tries to give the pilot the number of the person requiring that the planes be held, who’s actually taking this seriously.

    • Bill19014 says:

      Wait, it’s better…read the article, and apparently the terrorists weren’t supposed to be hiding among the passengers–they were hiding IN THE WHEEL WELLS of the plane. That’s right–the claim is that terrorists got into the wheel wells of two planes leaving from San Antonio and Helsinki, hitching a ride all the way to New York. Presumably their corpses were to be reanimated upon arrival in New York, where they would then…um…do something…terrorist-like?

    • GitEmSteveDaveHatesChange says:

      If they chock the wheels, that jet ain’t going anywhere.

  11. STXJK says:

    Is it wrong that I would have LOVED to see the pilot give the evacuation signal? Protecting the passengers is the flight crew’s number one responsibility – they tell you that at the start of every flight.

    • GitEmSteveDaveHatesChange says:

      Except that there are almost always injuries when they use those slides. In this case, that would have been more injuries than would have been incurred if they had done nothing/stayed on the plane. So they would have NOT been protecting the passengers.

  12. daemonaquila says:

    Kudos to the pilot. Either there’s a real threat, and he might be able to do something to help deal with it and save lives on the plane and elsewhere, or it’s a load of bull and it’s time for the powers that be to get moving. If there’s a bomb on that plane, how about we NOT keep hundreds of people sitting on it for hours? Idiots playing security theater.

  13. Guppy06 says:

    “”Negative, I demand the information right now over a frequency,” the pilot said.”

    This I take issue with. Many (most?) in-flight entertainment systems allow passengers in the cabin to listen in on the cockpit’s radio traffic; even if not, TSA isn’t seizing UHF receivers from passengers (yet). Stuff like this really should be handled out-of-band in some way.

    • atomix says:

      I hate to be that guy, but…. Hang on while I adjust the tape on the bridge of my glasses. OK

      Air traffic control uses frequencies that are well below UHF. Mostly in the VHF for commercial traffic. I know, I know, that doesn’t change the crux of your comment, but even so, it was distracting for this radio nerd.

    • scoosdad says:

      I’m pretty sure there has to be an on-off switch for that in the cockpit which the captain would control.

    • Jim M says:

      118.0 and 135.975 MHz is the norm.

    • scoosdad says:

      Not to mention that a radio receiver of any kind operated onboard by a passenger has always been prohibited on any US commercial airplane. A receiver actually emits a good amount of RF energy in the process of conversion of a signal to listen to it.