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Air traffic controller joke diverts plane landing: No laughing matter to FAA

Air traffic controller hoax under investigation by FAA
Air traffic controller hoax under investigation by FAA
Photo by David McNew/Getty Images

An air traffic controller's joke diverted a plane from landing and it is considered no laughing matter by the Federal Aviation Administration who is investigating the incident. This potentially dangerous joke was told to a pilot landing at Hartsfield-Jackson Atanta International Airport, according to FCN News on June 13.

The pilot can be heard over the radio asking the air traffic controller if he is cleared for landing and the controller tells him he can't land. The pilot immediately aborted the landing just to have the air traffic controller tell him he was only kidding.

According to Jack Barker, a retired administrator for the Federal Aviation Administration said, "He (the air traffic controller) should be looked at very carefully, because what he did was completely wrong."

Barker went on to say that this is something he has never heard of in all his years that he worked for the FAA. The air traffic controller remains unnamed at this time.

The air traffic controller tells the pilot to disregard his previous directive as a joke. It was too late, the plane was ascending again and getting ready for instructions for a second landing attempt, according to CBS 5 AZ News.

The radar information available that tracked flight 630 showed that the plane took off at 3 p.m. from Detroit and ascended to 40,000 feet which is their cruising altitude. The plane started its descent at 4:25 p.m., dropping to 9,000 feet 15 minutes later.

When the air traffic controller passed along the joke to the pilot, which was about 4:45 p.m., the plane was about 1,000 feet off the ground and coming in for a landing. The radar shows the plane abruptly changing course and circle the airport before coming in for a landing attempt a second time.

The FAA has started their investigation into this air traffic controller hoax and declined to comment, only saying that they do not believe that the passengers, pilot or the plane were ever in any danger from this hoax.

The plane was a Boeing 777 and it is not known how many passengers were on the plane at the time of this hoax. The plane definitely changed course due to the air traffic controller's joke, as seen on the radar archives.

As far as any discipline handed down to the air traffic controller for this incident, the FAA won't comment on that until the investigation is complete. The air traffic controller has been suspended until the investigation is completed.

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