Controller busted for helping a nordo


Before I launch into a tirade against Babbitt and the FAA :angry: , what do others think of this ?


Having another plane visually check a NORDO isn’t standard procedure. If the 737 was vectored toward the Cirrus, then the Cirrus must’ve been showing up on radar. So, what was the point?

The controller didn’t just allow two planes to lose separation, he CAUSED it.

There’s a reason why airplanes are kept separated by certain distances. Nothing happened THIS time, but what about next time - or the next?

Just my $0.02


The controller was concerned enough to take action. The Cirrus could have been on auto pilot and the crew incapacitated.

The ATC Controller is a professional, the Southwest Crews are Professionals.
There had to be some leeway to allow professionals - to check upon the well being of fellow aviators.

An example was the Payne Stewart Learjet when they sent up F-16’s or if anyone recalls all the problems with the Cessna Conquests when they were new - I recall a few flight crews being sent to check in on them.

To make matters worse - because of this - what happens next time there is a real emergency - and ATC asks for flight crew assistance???

I say, Kudos to the ATC and the Southwest crew for over-riding ‘rules’ to check on the well being of a fellow aviator.

It will be interesting to see the outcome of this.

If I was a corporate jet operator - I’d be making a phone call to Southwest and offering a job for the crew!!!


Seems to me Randy has forgotten what flying is all about.


…and then WHAT?
Call FlyBoy’s replacement… somehow get EMTs in there to save 'em? Maybe put a healthy pilot into the plane to land the plane?

Bit of a difference between an F-16 with a pilot who’s trained in formation flying and paid to risk his life, and a 737 with a planeload of pax.




I have a hard time understanding a controller vectoring a loaded airliner to intercept a GA aircraft. I have heard controllers from time to time ask other aircraft to attempt to raise another aircraft on the radio, especially in areas with spotty coverage, but I have never heard even a GA aircraft get vectored to close in on another aircraft.

I hear now that the flight crew also got suspended as a result of this incident, yet they were merely obeying an instruction from the controller.

I guess I wonder, if this NORDO aircraft was a big enough deal to warrant attention from a 737, then the military should have been responsible for the intercept.


There was a case many years ago of an AirNZ DC-10 (I think) that helped to find a lost single engine ferry flight out over the pacific. They even dumped fuel to create a contrail to help the small plane see them. Nobody threatened action against them. They were considered heroes. Even made a cheesy made for tv movie about it.

from AvCanada.

From what I’ve read so far, the Boeing was 1.2 nautical miles at 249 knots.

I see no risk what so ever to crew, passengers, Cirrus, or the controller!!, nor am I aware of any regulations they may have broken???

I think the crew of the SouthWest should be commended for their actions, I understand the Controllers are stinging from the Reagan incident - but this is overkill.


If the Aircraft is Nordo let the military intercept as per standard procedures.

If the aircraft is in distress, can communicate and another aircraft can assist without losing separation, then by all means help each other out.

But to lose separation between a commercial/pax carrying aircraft and a nordo aircraft, :confused: that shouldn’t happen if there are other options.


Not being privy to the factual information - I have to err in favor of the professionalism of ATC and SouthWest.

Look forward to more info . . .

Kinda like the FlightAware forums coming alive again!!!


I have a feeling this is what it’s about. Babbitt opening his mouth for a bit of pre-emptive damage control where perhaps none is needed.

“Less than 1.2 miles” laterally tells me nothing. Statute miles, nautical, 1.19 or a couple hundred feet, what ? I seriously doubt the WN crew approached that close without visual contact, and wouldn’t there have been an implicit cancellation of IFR anyway ? Assuming the Cirrus was mode C, I just don’t see the ‘danger’ factor here.

Yes an investigation is probably warranted and maybe some time off while it’s done, but public castigation seems unnecessarily punitive.


Was it an instruction, or a request? Either way, the flight crew had a duty to reject any instruction from a controller that was unsafe.


Seems clear enough

…the air traffic controller asked the crew to have a look at a Cirrus SR-22 private aircraft enroute to Orlando Kissimmee Airport tracking about 10nm ahead at 11,000 feet, that could not be reached on radio for over an hour. The crew agreed to help and was vectored towards the Cirrus, reported the aircraft in sight


You don’t do it with an air carrier. Period.




It was a rhetorical question :wink: