FAA investigating jetliner's turn in wrong direction - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

FAA investigating jetliner's turn in wrong direction

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SAN DIEGO (CBS 8/CNS) - The Federal Aviation Administration was investigating what could have been a disaster involving a San Diego air traffic controller who sent a jetliner bound for Taipai, Taiwan in the wrong direction.  

It happened Friday during a rainstorm around 1:20 a.m. when the controller told the pilot of an EVA Airways Boeing 777 air flight to turn left instead of right after taking off from LAX.   

"At the time, aircraft were departing from LAX to the east,'' the FAA's Ian Gregor said.  
  
The 777's flight crew switched from the LAX control tower to the approach control in San Diego right after takeoff, Gregor explained.   

"The air traffic controller at the approach control who was handling EVA instructed the pilot to make a left turn to a 180-degree heading," Gregor said.   
   
"She meant to tell the pilot to make a right turn to a 180-degree heading. The pilot turned to the left. The controller quickly realized EVA was turning in the wrong direction. 

She took immediate action to keep EVA safely separated from an Air Canada jet that had departed LAX off the north runway complex." 
   
The jetliners "remained the required distance" from one another, he said.   
   
"The controller then turned her attention to getting EVA to turn south," Gregor said.   

"The controller issued the EVA pilot a series of instructions to get him to turn south. The controller wanted to make sure the EVA aircraft was safely above or away from nearby terrain."   
   
Gregor said that FAA regulations require aircraft to be at least three miles away laterally or 2,000 feet vertically above obstacles such as mountains.   

"It is very rare for a controller to get an incorrect instruction," longtime pilot and former FAA accident investigator Bob Griscom told CBS 8. "They are constantly under training." 

Griscom flew for 60 years throughout the United States and said he only received an incorrect instruction from air traffic control once. 

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