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Air traffic controller joke: Controller's joke prevents landing, FAA not amused

An air traffic controller’s obtuse decision to make a joke to a pilot coming in for a landing, telling the plane that it couldn’t touch down at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, has the FAA hot under the collar. There are apparent times when a well-timed joke can lighten the mood of the room. Conversely, there are times when humor should be kept in the back pocket – funerals, wedding vows, and when your job is to prevent 84,000-pound planes from slamming into one another.

Delta Flight 360 was on final approach over the weekend and radioed in to the tower. The voice that came crackling back said:

360 go around.

And then, moments later:

I’m kidding, Delta 360. After you land I’ve got no one behind you. Expect to exit right. Delta 630 you’re clear to land on (runway) 27-Left.

Really guys? I’ll tell you what – if you are so completely bored sitting in your ergonomic chair and staring at porthole-shaped screens all day watching blips and beeps, then kick back with a game of classic Asteroids and call it a night. At least you won’t get anyone killed, other than your tiny spinning spaceship.

As reported by 11Alive Atlanta, after the joke flopped, it was too late for the pilot to laugh it off. He had already diverted his plane, ascended back up to 40,000 feet and plotted a course to circle back around in a holding pattern. The FAA said the Delta jetliner had actually reached as low as 1,000 feet and had its gear down before the idiotic joke came through.

The captain responded with: “You sent us around. Delta 360 is on the go.” In layman speak, that translates to: “Putz, I’ve got a 42-ton tin can here with lives at stake, and now I have to take her back up?!”

All told, the passengers were delayed 90 minutes, fuel was wasted and, although the FAA says there was never any danger, of course an unplanned, last second maneuver like that is potentially dangerous.

Expect the foolhardy controller to be fired. But all is not lost. We're sure there is a government job with his name on it.

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