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ATC possibly overloading a pilot?

This disturbing video is doing the social media right now

A lot of strange things going on. If it was me I would not be able to follow those ATC directions at that speed (even if I could understand them, which I could not in some cases, but a native of the USA probably can). It starts to get really bad around 3:40 and gets a lot worse around 7:00.

I have flown a bit in the USA (Phoenix area) and didn’t have a problem there, but then KPHX has a lot of international traffic some of which would be stumped by that delivery.

As to what caused the final crash is a bit of a mystery. The pilot sounded like she was in pretty good control throughout, until then.

Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

Attended a seminar this summer where we discussed that particular video. Some people were completely perplexed by the ATC, but I don’t know. Coming in at ENVA, VFR, at a bad moment, you could experience similar stuff. ATC trying to be flexible, but things doesn’t always add up. With both VFR and IFR traffic, it’s VFR that has the flexibility.

The video doesn’t say what actually caused the crash. It could be something unrelated. But even so, the duty and priority of the PIC is to fly the aircraft safely as number one. To me it sounds like she did all the way (until the bad outcome), which we don’t actually know the cause of.

I don’t know what to think. It’s easy to be lead in the direction she was overloaded by poor ATC and forgot to fly the aircraft. But, that doesn’t really sound right when listening to how she speaks. It’s also a rather prejudice assumption.


She went for runway 4 then 35 then went around for one more try at 35 and then executed one more go around with left climbing turn for runway 4 north downwind
Wind from 100 at 10 gusting 20 Kts
ATC: “If you can just keep me a nice, low, tight pattern”
When she made that left turn from (say) 350* to 220* think of the gusting tailwind while in the turn with increased stall speed due to G’s and the instruction “tight”.
What a galactically incompetent ATC saturating all that R/T exchange with the story of his life.
Pure incompetence to detect the inherent danger and keep it simple.
She was trying, she was responsive, she was calm but these qualities clearly were not enough when you’re turning left, in a higher G turn (higher stall speed) with wind rapidly changing to tailwind with gusts (IAS reducing until aircraft hull catches up in the air mass it flies) and MAYBE looking down/left and missing the fact that the aircraft is still rolling FURTHER left and with a high G pull is about to enter that lethal envelope corner of stall/spin at low altitude.
What a shame.

NTSB link

Last Edited by petakas at 01 Dec 09:37
LGMG Megara, Greece

Not being a native American speaker I sometimes struggle, but didnt find the exchange difficult.

I actually think there was the odd hint that the pilot was getting a little stressed but nothing much and nothing that would have given it away at the time.

I think the ATC did a poor job co-ordinating the Cirrus with the traffic, and in consequence increased the pilots work load enormously. The assumption may have been that the pilot appeared to be doing a good job, but that is a very dangerous assumption and not one they are entitled to make.

I also think there is a tendency for AT to think most light SEP are slow and very manoueverable. While this is true, it is relative to the pilots experience. The Cirrus can be a real handful if you are low hours and more accustom to slower light singles. I think when you are mixing high performanc aircraft with light GA it is preferable to treat everyone the same and preferabe that AT manage the speed difference rather than expecting the pilot to make up the game plan for you. An indication of this is when AT gave the Cirrus a different runway, and it would appear when she rolled out of the right orbit, ended up too high. The Cirrus is pretty good at dumping height and speed, but only if you are on your game, otherwise it is equally easy to get very hot and high – attempting to kill off the energy late in the approach is a recipe for disaster. So for some pilots this approach may have worked just fine but getting rid of the height and speed in the orbit was possibly essential which required reasonably quick thinking. Whatever the cause the pilot was then left coming off the approach aware that she had had to go missed as a consequence of being hot and high, I guess with full flaps and minimium a/s before commencing the go around and then relatively quickly into a left turn.

What did happen? If it was a stall in the turn and nothing else had gone wrong, you wouldnt be entirely surprised given the sequence of events before.

For me the lesson is that AT need to be very careful assuming from a pilots measured tone and responsiveness that they really are on top of their game. In short, unless they actually know the pilot, treat everyone flying GA as potentially a relative novice while by all means setting your expectation somewhere else for commercial operators, on the basis that almost certainly they are doing this day in day out and there are two pilots on their flight deck. For all AT knew she may well have had many GA hours, carm and collected on the radio as a consequence of plenty of time in a Warrior, but with only tens of hours in the Cirrus or anything as “fast” and slippery.

Having just returned to the skies of the USA that ATC seemed a lot clearer than some of what I hear on New York centre, that having been said it was asking a lot of a low time PPL holder.

I am fast becoming of the opinion that Europe is trying to de-skill pilots into autopilot slaves and the Americans expect and assume a much greater degree of hand flying skill.

Houston Hobby was part of my old stamping ground…

I will probably listen to this later, but to give some context, Houston has two primary class B airports (Hobby and Bush Intercontinental) with a large double “inverted wedding cake” class B airspace associated with it and a corridor not unlike the Manchester LLR between the two (except with a higher floor of the controlled airspace). Hobby itself is very busy, being a major hub for Southwest Airlines. GA aircraft generally should be prepared for a “keep your speed up” – I’ve flown down final approach in a Grumman Tiger at 125 knots when arriving at Hobby with a Southwest 737 on the parallel only seeming to only be barely overtaking me. There is a lot of frequent jet traffic (airliners and bizjets) into KHOU, more so than KIAH, and there’s also a flight school (or at least there was when I was living there).

Most GA regulars at Hobby are used to this, and it’s probably the case that ATC I think will assume pilots of light singles will be aware of this. IIRC this Cirrus was from somewhere out in the boonies of Oklahoma, so not only were they finishing a reasonably long flight, but they were going into quite a congested airfield, and ATC’s sole measure of you as a pilot is how you sound on the radio – so if you sound good they probably expect you to move heaven and earth so they can sequence all those jets in. The other thing about American ATC is that 99% of the time they are only working native English speakers, so they don’t always rigidly stick to ICAO English ATC phraseology (and nor do the pilots for that matter) especially when talking to another obviously native English speaker.

Reading the NTSB report reveals just a normal run-of-the-mill day at Houston Hobby to be honest. Lots of jets, GA pilot has to keep their speed up etc. IMHO having flown out of Hobby, there was nothing strange in that at all for Houston Hobby until it began to go pear shaped with the go-arounds.

The other thing that’s worth considering is the way we teach stalls, it’s always up at altitude and you do a clearing turn to ensure you’re not going to run into anyone, configure the aircraft for the kind of stall you want to do and recover. But that’s not how it happens in real life, on a go-around the aircraft can quite often rear up because it’s trimmed for approach, and the sudden increase in thrust means it suddenly wants to be more nose up than you expect. Go arounds can also be quite high workload, and the pilot may be mentally distracted by the cause of the go-around even after the fact.

Last Edited by alioth at 01 Dec 14:54
Andreas IOM

At one point ATC seemed confused. There appeared to be a handover and the new controller was unclear of the status. She was on a right base for R35, having been TWICE cleared to land there when she was suddenly given a new heading (turn 30 degrees left) by a new controller. The subsequent exchange suggested that the new controller didn’t know that she had been cleared to land on R35 and asked if she wanted to follow traffic in to R4. Her clearance to land on R35 was never cancelled unless something was cut out of the transcript. If it was me, I would have challenged the 30 degree left turn because it didn’t make any sense when on right base to R35 with a landing clearance. After that, the whole thing started to go off the rails and her track seems to show she was simply and blindly following instructions (very well BTW) with constant switches between R4 and R35. The impression I get is that ATC seemed to be trying to fly the aircraft and she was going along with the game. Sure, controllers give specific instructions to turn and keep circuits tight when trying to fit VFR tfc into IFR arrivals, but she really didn’t get a fair chance to land on either of the runways.

Many pilots are reluctant to tell ATC what they need to safely handle the airplane. I haven’t flown a Cirrus and we don’t know her experience on it, but it is not the first Cirrus accident I’ve heard about when manoeuvring low and slow. In a fast aircraft and windy conditions, a stable final is what she needed (and never got) not a base-final turn at 200’ and 1/4 mile. Surely ATC could have had her extend downwind on the first circuit to R35 to give them time to spread out the R4 arrivals a bit and fit her onto a stable R35 final between them. But retro-vision is always 20/20.

Last Edited by chflyer at 01 Dec 17:16
LSZK, Switzerland

First off, there might have been some strange editing here. But other than that, I can see/hear nothing but a piss poor job by ATC, continuously confusing the pilot. That is pretty starting much from the very first exchange and all the way through. Not thr first time I hear or read such things in youtube videos. It seems very common for US ATC to make very confusing things and not stick to proper phraseology. The Melbourne accident also sorings back to mind. I think the quality of US ATC is generally hugely overrated.

Mainz (EDFZ), Germany

IMHO the root cause was that she had been assigned RWY 35 with a 10G20 nearly direct crosswind out of very non-standard approaches, when other options were clearly available. At least after the first missed approach on RWY 35 it should have been apparent to the controller that this was beyond her skills, but her professional radio work obviously made him believe he would be doing her a favor by trying to fit her into the flow with minimum delay rather than sending her the long way round. Certainly flow planning by the controller was bad to begin with, however.

I am not under the impression that „overload“ is what ATC should be blamed for here. While the phraseology was highly non-standard, she did a good job understanding and following the instructions and the controller’s voice was calm and reassuring. Rather this was a fatal combination of ATC wanting to get the airplane down as quickly as possible and a pilot not being assertive enough when decisionmaking shifts from cockpit to TWR.

Friedrichshafen EDNY

tschnell wrote:

IMHO the root cause was that she had been assigned RWY 35 with a 10G20 nearly direct crosswind out of very non-standard approaches, when other options were clearly available. At least after the first missed approach on RWY 35 it should have been apparent to the controller that this was beyond her skills, but her professional radio work obviously made him believe he would be doing her a favor by trying to fit her into the flow with minimum delay rather than sending her the long way round. Certainly flow planning by the controller was bad to begin with, however.

I disagree. She lost control of the plane which is not excusable. Yes ATC were all over the place and behaved very badly, but you fly your plane. She should have been more assertive.

EGTK Oxford
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