Delta Looking Into Snippy Comments From Pilot To Air Traffic Control

settledowncaptainhappyNo one really likes to be corrected, but when that correction is “you’re taking your plane to the wrong runway,” then you should probably appreciate the criticism. That wasn’t the case for one Delta pilot who didn’t take kindly when an air traffic controller at the country’s busiest airport tried to put him on the right path.

The conversation is being described as a “rant,” and ABC News even warned viewers that the exchange can get pretty heated. Neither of those is really true, as neither party curses or raises his voice.

But what is of concern is the pilot’s attitude during the discussion.

The flight, Delta 2422 from Atlanta to Charlotte, NC, was slated to take off from the runway labeled “Mike” on Friday, but the air traffic controller contacted the pilot because he appeared to be taking his jet to the “Lima” runway.

“Hey you know what, we’ll taxi out there any way we want unless you tell us to,” responded the pilot. “I don’t like your attitude.”

To which the controller answered, “I don’t have an attitude, I’m just saying it looks like you joined Lima instead of Mike and I’m just trying to correct you before you stay on Lima.”

This apparently got the pilot even more upset.

“Like oh my god, there’s another plane out there, like 6 miles away,” he told the controller. “Your attitude is really something sir, we’re out here on Mike. Good morning.”

At this point, the controller reminds the pilot that it’s a controller’s job to, ya know, control air traffic.

“Good morning. There was no attitude,” he told the Delta crew. “I was just trying to correct you. That’s my job to correct you if you mess up, and make sure everybody’s doing what I ask them to do for certain reasons.”

Then the pilot said something he probably didn’t want the world to hear on national news.

“All right, I make a mistake every two to three minutes but my attitude is not like yours,” he fired back.” We’re out on Mike and you didn’t tell us how to get there, so next time you can try doing that.”

The best part of the exchange is when a pilot from another plane chimes in to say, “Settle down Captain Happy,” which we’re assuming is not the Delta pilot’s actual name.

Delta says it is looking into the exchange but says no passengers were ever in danger.

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  1. steve65341 says:

    Just an FYI.. Runways don’t have names ; They have numbers. “Mike” or “Lima” would be a taxiway to get to a runway.

    • leeb says:

      seconded and adding:

      The taxiways are actually just lettered, but they have “names” for reading them aloud over the radio. N and M sound alike on a radio. “Mike” and “November” are easily discerned.

      You can find the map of the area here:

      Note that L and M are parallel, just south of the terminals. I’m not a controller (or a pilot), but based on my limited knowledge, it’s possible they were using L and M as paths for planes going in opposite directions (e.g., like one-way streets) or that the takeoff queue was running down one (and landing aircraft were using the other), or that there was construction on a portion of L, hence being advised to stay away. Also note that some kinds of aircraft (“Group VI”) are prohibited on a portion of Taxiway L(ima).

      Based on the limited clips above (and without listening to the whole history), the pilot appears to be accusing the controller of not specifying the path to get to the desired point on taxiway M(ike). Often controllers will give a series of directions (to make one up out of thin air: Ramp to Lima 5, right on Mike, left on Lima to Runway 9 Left, line up at wait); the pilot seems to have taken a (perceived or actual) lack of directions to mean he can use his discretion and, thus, is accusing the controller of having screwed up.

      Again, I’m not an expert on these things, just an informed layperson; I certainly don’t speak for any organization on this and know no specifics other than what’s above and in the link. Just thought folks may find the extra info helpful.

      • ReverendTed57 says:

        Thanks for the insight!
        My main concern is that the exchange sounded very unprofessional. I don’t listen in to ATC, so I don’t know what the tone usually is, but I’d expect it to be generally technical, dry, and professional, with the occasional pleasantry thrown in for color.