A United Airlines pilot got angry after they were forced to perform two go-arounds due to inadequate traffic separation.
A go-around happens when an aircraft that is approaching the ground or has already touched down discontinues the approach and landing due to operational reasons.
The event occurred on May 12, when United Airlines flight UA1390 arrived at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA). The flight was operated by a Boeing 737-900 jet with the registration code N75428.
Although the aircraft was already cleared to land on runway 28L, the air traffic controller decided to allow another United Airlines aircraft to line up on the runway and wait. The decision was made while the UA1390 flight was four miles from the threshold.
The other aircraft was forced to wait for another jet to vacate the active runway before it could be allowed to take off. At this point, UA1390 was less than two miles from the threshold.
UA1390 was instructed to go around and receive vectors for the approach again since there was not enough spacing.
However, the same thing happened when flight UA1390 attempted its second approach to runway 28L. Even though the jet had already received permission to land, another jet was allowed to enter the runway and wait. This meant that flight UA1390 had to postpone its landing again due to a lack of spacing.
The pilot ended up losing their temper after being forced to avoid the runway twice. They called out the air traffic controller, stating that "you guys gotta do better than this, that's twice."
The air traffic controller responded by saying that there were issues with the approach frequency. They stated this even though their responsibility is to clear departing aircraft to taxi onto the runway.
Details of the conversation between the pilot and NorCal departure are below:
- Pilot: "What's going on, that's twice?"
- Controller: "I'm not sure."
- Pilot: "This is unacceptable, come on, well, let's not do this again."
- Controller: "We don't work in the tower, sir."
- Pilot: "They told me to talk to you."
The pilot later spoke to NorCal approach, with the conversation going like this:
- Pilot: "Can we make sure we don't put anyone on the runway anymore?"
- Controller: "We're wondering the same thing, we've got a few over here, and we'll make sure you land this time."
- Pilot: "Yeah, definitely file a report for this, this is just unacceptable."
- Controller: "We are 100% in agreeance with you, sorry for it."
- Pilot: "Thanks, I know it's not your fault, but unfortunately you're the only one I've got to vent to. He told me to talk to you guys, that's the funny part."
- Controller: "That's great. Apparently aircraft on the ground have priority over aircraft in the air. Again, just for your information, we've had issues with the tower here for a while as far as some of these go arounds, things like that, but I think it's more fit for an official report because we're hearing now that they're trying to blame us for our speeds, but I don't know what's wrong with what we did."
- Pilot: "Yeah, I'll fill one out for sure. I mean, it's just unacceptable, two go arounds for the same issue, something's gotta happen with that."
- Controller: “I agree with you 100%.”
The UA1390 flight finally landed on the third attempt after being delayed for approximately 30 minutes due to the two go-arounds after a visual approach to 28R.
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