An air traffic controller is the subject of an investigation after his joke caused an airplane to circle around the airport for an hour and a half.
According to reports, Delta Flight 360 was preparing to land at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Airport last week, but as it approached the runway, an air traffic controller decided it would be a good time to play a joke on the pilot by telling him that the plane could not land.
The pilot had no idea that the air traffic controller was joking, however, so he quickly ascended and changed his course completely. Immediately, the controller realized that his joke was not received and tried to rectify the situation, but at that point, it was too late.
“'I'm kidding, Delta 360,” said the air traffic controller. “After you land I’ve got no one behind you. Expect to exit right. Delta 630 you’re clear to land on [runway] 27-Left.”
“You sent us around,” responded the pilot. “Delta 360 is on the go.”
By the time the air traffic controller had told the pilot that it was a joke, the aircraft had already ascended from as low as 1,000 feet to an altitude of 40,000 feet where it circled for just about an hour and a half. Finally, after circling the airport at that altitude for that amount of time, the plane was finally able to safely land.
Now, in a statement following the incident, the Federal Aviation Administration has announced that they are investigating the incident to find out exactly what happened that day and why.
“The FAA is investigating air traffic communications with Delta 630, a Boeing 777 aircraft on approach to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport,” said the FAA in their statement.
It is not clear if the air traffic controller has already been reprimanded for the joke, but an investigation will likely reveal more.