Photo by John Schreiber.
Photo by John Schreiber.

The air traffic controller who may have mistakenly sent a giant jet the wrong way out of LAX and towards a mountain was no longer “working traffic” Thursday.

The investigation was continuing into the air traffic controller error that caused the pilot of a Boeing 777 to turn in the wrong direction toward another aircraft and the crest of Mt. Wilson after departing from Los Angeles International Airport.

The air traffic controller is currently “not working traffic,” according to a government source.

According to a recording of the conversation between the controller and the pilots of the plane that was posted on YouTube, the controller can be heard saying, “What are you doing? Turn southbound now.”

EVA Airways Flight BR15 to Taipei flew north on the controller’s instructions instead of south after departing from LAX early Friday morning, according to Ian Gregor of the Federal Aviation Administration.

The jetliner, with 353 people aboard, appeared to clear the 5,713-foot peak of Mt. Wilson by no more than 800 feet, according to website data cited by the Los Angeles Times.

Gregor said FAA regulations require aircraft to be at least three miles away laterally or 2,000 feet vertically above obstacles such as mountains.

“We are still investigating how close the plane came to the mountain,” he said Wednesday afternoon.

The airline, which is cooperating in the investigation, issued a statement Tuesday maintaining that its plane remained a safe distance from the terrain or other aircraft.

It’s unclear if a warning was sounded in the cockpit.

Aircraft were departing from LAX to the east at the time and the EVA flight took off from the airport’s south runway complex, Gregor said.

The 777’s flight crew switched from the LAX control tower to the approach control in San Diego right after takeoff, Gregor explained.

“The air traffic controller at the approach control who was handling EVA instructed the pilot to make a left turn to a 180-degree heading,” Gregor said. “She meant to tell the pilot to make a right turn to a 180-degree heading.

The pilot turned to the left. The controller quickly realized EVA was turning in the wrong direction,” he said. “She took immediate action to keep EVA safely separated from an Air Canada jet that had departed LAX off the north runway complex.”

The jetliners “remained the required distance” from one another, he said. “The controller then turned her attention to getting EVA to turn south. The controller issued the EVA pilot a series of instructions to get him to turn south. The controller wanted to make sure the EVA aircraft was safely above or away from nearby terrain.”

–City News Service

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