Wednesday, February 28, 2024
Home Travel Flight Drama Over San Francisco: United’s Mid-Air Communication Breakdown

Flight Drama Over San Francisco: United’s Mid-Air Communication Breakdown

by Staff

Flight Drama Over San Francisco: United’s Mid-Air Communication Breakdown

United flight 35 from San Francisco to Osaka returned to San Francisco on Friday after dumping fuel. The aircraft was unable to make two way voice communication with air traffic control or with the airline’s dispatch.

The pilots of the aircraft communicated via text message – first with ACARS messages and then Controller Pilot Data Link Communications for air traffic control clearance to return to San Francisco.

The exchange between the cockpit and United dispatch is fascinating.

First, two way communications failed. One way they could be heard, but couldn’t hear responses. Another way they could hear but couldn’t be heard.

C=Cockpit. L=Dispatch

C=UNABLE TO CONTACT SFO
ON HF11282 WE HEAR TRANSMISSIONS BUT UNABLE TO REACH THEM IT SEEMS
L=UA35-02 KSFO RJBB TEST
L=UA35-02 KSFO RJBB LOST COMM. WILL CALL YOU BACK VIA SATCOM.
L= CAN HEAR YOU JUST FINE, BUT APPEARS YOU ARE UNABLE TO HEAR ME. PLZ ACK.
C= CORRECT. DID NOT HEAR YOU. UNABLE TO TRNSMT ON HF

United dispatch recommended returning to San Francisco, since the pilots were only able to communicate in writing with the company via ACARS.

NOT SURE ITS A GOOD IDEA TO CONTINUE. LONG WAY TO GO WITHOUT ABILITY TO TALK TO YOU OUTSIDE ACARS. TOMC SAYS NO SATCOM FAULTS.

They had to dump fuel so they wouldn’t land too heavy. They couldn’t communicate, but were required by EPA rules to communicate.

C= YES WE INTEND TO DUMP TO MAX LWT
L= UNDERSTOOD. WILL ADVISE OAK OCEANIC.
L= DUE TO EPA CONSTRAINTS. COMPANY NEEDS TO KEEP RECORDS FOR EPA. AMOUNT OF DUMP FL OF DUMP LOCATION OF DUMP START TIME AND END TIME OF THE DUMP
L= SPOKE WITH OCEANIC. WHEN CLOSE TO SHENU ATC WILL DIRECT YOU TO SPOT WHERE TO DUMP. NEED TO BE IN RADAR ENVIROMENT FOR OTHER FLTS SAFTEY.


United Airlines Boeing 787

Fortunately Oakland Center is set up with Controller Pilot Data Link Communications, which is mandatory in Europe and still rolling out within the United States, and this allows text communication with air traffic control.

The Boeing 787 made a four hour roundtrip, and then after four hours back on the ground got underway again to Osaka Kansai airport.

The most striking thing about the whole exchange? The ‘recovery flight’ that flew to Osaka didn’t serve dinner. They were having an emergency, they couldn’t communicate, but United dispatch made sure that the flight completed its first meal service… so they wouldn’t have to fully cater the second plane.

L=IF YOU HAVE A FREE MOMENT CAN YOU CONFIRM 1ST SERVICE HAS BEEN INITIATED AND OR COMPLETED? A/C SWAP IN SFO TO CONTINUE. HOPING TO AVOID HAVING CATERING PROVIDE FULL SERVICE ON RECOVERY LEG.

Passengers would never have known that there was an issue, until they were told they were returning to San Francisco. And a meal is a good thing to keep everyone occupied.

Leave a Comment

Copyright ©️ All rights reserved. | Tourism Trends