AA 757 Denied Emergency Landing (last summer)


I saw part of a story on ABC News last night about an AA 757 that declared a fuel emergency and was TWICE denied clearance to land on the captain’s preferred runway at DFW. He requested to land on Rwy. 17C, but was told that he either had to circle around to Rwy. 31 (I think that’s the correct #) or find another airport! There’s no link to the story on ABCnews.com yet (the most recent archives are from Monday night). The following article is the only one I can find about the story at all. It’s not the most informative, but I was wondering if anyone else is familiar with this story or saw the clip on Wednesday night…?



Runway 35 would be opposite 17C.


31 R and L at DFW aren’t the opposite of 17, they’re different runways at an angle to the main ones. Look at the chart, you can see what they were talking about.


I think all he was pointing out was that the opposite of 17C is 35C.

I understand where 31R gets thrown in there because of the layout of DFW I just think mduell was pointing out what the other side of 17 was since it was kind of asked in the original post.


I misunderstood planeaholic’s post. My post was correct, but nevertheless off topic.


Sorry for any confusion about the runways. Traffic was travelling S to N that day, and the AA jet was coming from the N, so the pilot requested to land towards the south against the traffic patterns, as he thought he could literally be on fumes at any second. The approach controller notified DFW’s tower, who flat out denied the request and told the approach ATC to notify the a/c to fly around to Rwy. 31R, which is an entirely different runway. The captain made the reqest a second time (he had declared a fuel emergency the first time), and the approach controller contacted the tower again, and the tower responded that if the pilot couldn’t make the turn onto 31R, perhaps he should find a closer airport to land. They played the tapes on the newscast; it was quite disturbing to hear this conversation. Now, of course, the tower supervisor says the controller made the call, the controller says that he was under orders, he said-he said cover-my-ass type of stuff. I’ll keep checking for a link; I’ll email ABC myself if I don’t see one soon.

…And yes, Mark; I’m by NO MEANS an aviation expert, but I am privy to the system by which runways are numbered. :wink:


Are you sure you don’t mean North to South? Because if it was going South to North, 31 would have been much more convenient than 17.


The flight in question was going NORTH to SOUTH. Airport traffic was travelling south to north. He requsted to land with the wind, as he was obviously very concerned about the fuel he had (or didn’t have) on board.


Ok, I misread your post, my mistake.


Here’s the link I’ve been looking for (you may have to sit through a 14 sec. RadioShack commercial first):



This is the Dallas Morning News coverage, with a link to video.

(Apologies if free registration is required. Having registered, I don’t see those things pop up.)


If there are any ATC types on the board allow me to applogize in advance for what is about to follow.

Make no mistake, I am in command. I don’t give a rats bottom what the controller says. A better way to think about ATC is not Air Traffic Controllers but Air Traffic Coordinators. When I declare an emergency I am not asking for anything, I am telling ATC what I am going to do purely for their information and planning. Once the emergency was declared (it was on the tape) all the regulations that say we are to follow ATC instruction go out the window.
Don’t get me wrong. In normal ops I am glad to do whatever I can to work with ATC. I have several friends who are controllers and I have sat at the scope or stood in the tower with them so I have a tiny sense of how difficult the job is. In this case however, the emergency had been declared and the Captain should have told the controller to pound salt and landed on whatever runway he wanted. Period, end of discussion. The controller or supervisor in this case was flat out wrong and damn lucky they aircraft didn’t run out of fuel on the downwind while circling to the favored runway.
The Flight Crew also needs to take some heat here too. They should have stuck to their guns and demanded to get what they required.

Stepping down from my soap box now.
Flame away.


Every air traffic controller I know is scratching their heads over this one. There is no way this should have happened, we all say. It makes absolutely no sense. The pilot declared an emergency, and they should have done what the pilot asked for. Period. The controllers involved we decertified and retrained, which is a big deal in the controller world.

It seems that there is so much more to be learned about this story. Most of the pilots on this site are extremely skeptical about the aviation reporting in our media ( and rightly so, in most cases) and I would take the reporting in this case with a grain of salt, also. Something here isn’t adding up.


I watched this earlier tonight and I keep thinking back to it and I can not imagine what happens if they dont make the runway.

I wonder what happens if the crew does continue to hold their ground and declare an emergency again or continue to make it clear they dont think they can make it around to 35R.


I agree that they should have “stuck to their guns” as far as demanding the quickest route to get the a/c on the ground safely. But I hope you’re not implying that they should have aligned with 17C and proceeded to land without clearance, are you? Instead of endangering one plane full of pax, they would be endangering two or more by disregarding instructions, especially with an opposing traffic flow pattern. I agree, they should have repeated their request at least one more time, even though I’m sure they were concentrating on monitoring the a/c’s systems. They were probably so stunned at the denial that they were speechless!

I would agree that there probably is more to the story, maybe a lot more; but I don’t know of ANY REASON that a declared emergency shouldn’t instantly become Priority #1, no matter how busy/delayed/hectic the airport activity is.


Typical pilot attitude, and these AA pilots obviously didn’t share the same sentiments. So you know better than ATC what is going on on the ground?


Boy you guys are tough. I’m a former airline guy who also spent 10 years as a controller with FAA and there is no question in my mind that the controller was wrong, unless …

he was telling the AA pilot not to land because someone was already rolling from the opposite end of that same or an intersecting runway. Then yes, tell the pilots and they would probably have grabbed another piece of concrete. There is plenty at DFW.

But short of another aircraft already on takeoff roll, there is absolutely no reason whatsoever for a controller to do anything other than get all the other airplanes out of this guy’s way.

And every pilot I know - in flight or on the ground - would have jumped pretty quick to make that move too.

Controllers might not like pilots who don’t foillow orders, but them’s the rules … even according to the ATC Handbook they train with. And the pilots have FAR 91.3 to back them up. In an emergency, the flight crew can do anything it damn well needs to.



Seems simple enough to me to shoot them over to 17R or L if 17C is just out of the questionor even throw them to the other side of the airport, what is it over there, 18L and 18R?

I do wonder what we dont know about what went on here


That is exactly what I am saying. What you are missing here is that once the emergency is declared I don’t need a clearance for anything. Anything I broadcast to ATC is for advisory purpose only. I am not asking, I am telling them what is going to happen. It is their job to move whatever traffic is necesssary.

Yes, if there was a departing aircraft on the opposite runway that had already begun it’s roll then another piece of concrete is appropriate.

Typical pilot attitude, and these AA pilots obviously didn’t share the same sentiments. So you know better than ATC what is going on on the ground?

Again, missed the point. It doesn’t matter. The emergency had been declared and it was ATC’s job to do whatever was necessary to make it happen. Go read CFR14 91.3 (a) & (b) and 91.123. We don’t have the whole story so we don’t know what the airport situation was. It would be very interesting to be able to have both the ATC and the CVR transcripts to get a better picture.

The controllers involved we decertified and retrained, which is a big deal in the controller world.

That is a very telling piece of information if it’s true.


I have read them over since hearing about the incident. What I’ve gotten out of this is that the ATC controllers better have had a damn good reason to put the plane through that pattern, and I am left curious as to why the pilots would accept that procedure if indeed they thought they would run out of fuel at any moment.

Either way, we won’t know much more without some more info into the incident.