Back in December 2016, a Taipei-bound Eva Air flight that had just departed LAX narrowly missed a mountain. The NTSB has now just released its official findings into the cause of the incident and it seems that the dangerously close call was down to the air traffic controller confusing right and left.
In December 2016, a Taipei-bound Eva Air flight departing from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) narrowly missed a mountain due to a mix-up by an air traffic controller, The Independent reports. According to findings revealed just this month by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which investigated the incident, the controller needed to route Eva Air Flight 15 in an eastbound pattern rather than a westbound pattern due to weather conditions at LAX.
Just after departure from LAX, the flight was told to “turn left heading of 180 degrees, climb and maintain 7,000ft,” but less than a minute after beginning this maneuver, the plane’s pilot was then instructed to “turn right, right turn heading 180 degrees.”
In order to avoid a nearby craft, the flight was then instructed to hold an altitude of 5,000ft while increasing its speed and turning to the right. This instruction was then followed by, “Turn left, left turn to a heading of ah, two nine ah, correction two seven zero.”
Confusingly, the controller then abruptly asked the pilot to cease the maneuver, before asking the craft to “turn south now, climb and maintain 7,000ft.”
This brought the flight dangerously near Mount Wilson and according to the outlet, planes flying in close proximity of the mountain “…are required to fly at a minimum altitude of 7,000ft – 800ft higher than EVA015 was traveling at the time.”
Offering its assessment of the incident in its report, the NTSB said, “The incident was caused by the air traffic controller assigning the pilots a left turn instead of the required right turn after departure which placed the aircraft in an unsafe proximity with terrain and obstruction.”
“Contributing to the incident was the air traffic controller’s inadequate recovery technique during the development of the incident,” it added.
[Image Source: U.S. Department of Transportation]