Here's a story from a Dallas area paper asserting that the controller denied AAL the runway because he had been ordered to.http://www.dfw.com/mld/dfw/16756559.htm FAA retrains air controllers
By DAVID WETHE
STAR-TELEGRAM STAFF WRITER
The Federal Aviation Administration has retrained its North Texas supervisors and air traffic controllers after the improper denial of an American Airlines pilot's request to land at the nearest runway because he thought his plane was dangerously low on fuel.
On the morning of Aug. 30, Flight 489 reported that it was having a low-fuel emergency and needed to land on the closest runway it could reach, which was D/FW's 17C. But that meant it would be landing headed south, the opposite direction of that day's traffic.The controller was ordered not to disrupt the airport flow.
The plane was forced to land on Runway 31R, meaning its crew had to burn more fuel by flying around to the south and landing in the same direction as other planes.
The FAA admits it was wrong. "We know that we did something that we should have done differently," spokesman Roland Herwig said. "We should have given the aircraft the closest runway as opposed to routing him in."
In the end, American discovered that a malfunctioning gauge prompted the emergency and that the plane had plenty of fuel. But that didn't take away from the FAA's mistake, said John Hotard, a spokesman for the Fort Worth-based carrier.
"Our pilots have to feel comfortable that they'll receive appropriate help if they ever encounter an emergency such as this one," Hotard said. "It is a serious matter because the pilots didn't know what the situation was at the time when they declared the fuel emergency."
American has talked with the FAA and believes that everything has been resolved, he said.
The FAA held a training session for its local controllers and supervisors, Herwig said. It has already paid off, he said. On Feb. 1, when another incident occurred, the plane was allowed to land on a different runway than normal, temporarily suspending all other flights.Mike Conely, president of the local air traffic controllers union, said the blame for the Aug. 30 incident lies with the FAA supervisor that day.
"A controller doesn't have at his capability the power to completely shut everything," he said. "It would have been up to the supervisor to do that."
Conely also questioned the training. The FAA mentioned the incident in a memo last year and talked about it during a 30-minute weekly meeting, he said.
"They don't put a lot of emphasis on it," he said. "They don't put a lot of emphasis on people attending, simply because of the shortage of controllers."
Herwig begged to differ.
"We had the emphasis," he said, "and we discussed the different things that needed to be going on."