Here We Go Again: Newscasters Have No Clue When Reporting Aviation Incidents

  • Feb 3, 2015 4:16pm GMT

In the past few days, a news article has been circulating through Facebook by many of my pilot friends. We're all having a good laugh at the horrible inaccuracies that are being "reported" in this story. What makes it even more hilarious is how serious these newscasters take themselves as they report completely wrong information. Unfortunately, these stories with poor journalism make the flying public even more scared to fly.

Let's first start with the incident. An Airbus 320 operated by JetBlue from Orlando to Westchester County airport in New York had a close call with a small single engine aircraft while beginning their approach into the airport on Sunday January 25th. The air traffic controller notified the crew of the airplane that was not talking to ATC. Both pilots were able to spot the traffic and began a climb to avoid the plane. There were no injuries and the flight continued with no further deviations. Both the FAA and JetBlue say that they are investigating the close call.

There is no information for the public regarding where exactly this incident took place. It's uncertain if the plane was being vectored for a visual approach or had already commenced the final approach to landing. The controller notified the JetBlue flight that the small plane was at straight ahead of them and at an altitude of 2,900 feet. But there is no comment about the altitude of JetBlue but it was close enough the crew needed to adjust their altitude to avoid it. And there also isn't any info regarding how close the planes came to hitting each other.

Now lets talk about how the news journalists have been reporting this story. CNN had a short segment regarding the incident. In the video, they play a recording of the radio transmissions between the JetBlue pilots and the air traffic controller. This is where I can't watch this video without laughing. The audio is transposed with captions for the viewers to understand the conversation. The controller radios JetBlue about the small airplane they're approaching. JetBlue replies that they are looking for the traffic. ATC says they can climb or descend to avoid the oncoming airplane. JetBlue spots the plane and reply that they have the traffic in sight.

As for the captions, well they're completely wrong. Instead of "JetBlue 94", it's captioned as "Deborah 94." Who heard a Deborah in there? Where did she come from? And every JetBlue was replaced with Deborah through the whole video. When the pilot reported the traffic was "in sight," CNN captioned it as "inside." I really hope the smaller aircraft wouldn't be inside JetBlue. And the radio recording ends with a high pitched squeal. Any pilot hearing that knows that it is the sound of two or more people trying to talk on the same radio frequency at the same time. Also known as "blocking." Well CNN believed that this was the sound of the alarm for the traffic alert of an impending collision.