Sarina Gumbert, Central Florida TRACON
Just before noon on October 24, 2014, Sarina Gumbert, a seven-year veteran controller at Central Florida TRACON (F11), was working the Departure Radar West (DRW) position. The day before was the final day of the National Business Aviation Association conference, so traffic was slower than the previous few days.
At the time, Gumbert was working only one other aircraft when N7876C entered her airspace and called her. N7876C was a Cessna Citation Mustang that just departed Runway 36L from Orlando International Airport (MCO). The tower controller at MCO had assigned N7876C a 015 heading after departure, which he correctly read back. When the pilot of N7876C called DRW, he stated that he was turning right to 015. The read back was correct. The DRW position typically covers a range of about 45 to 50 miles of airspace. Looking at this much airspace, it is somewhat difficult to observe, in a split second, when an aircraft is not flying the correct heading, especially when a pilot says the heading you expect him or her to state.
Gumbert immediately observed the errant heading the pilot was flying and instead issued a 360 heading and asked him what his assigned heading was. The Citation pilot again read back 015. Gumbert’s experience and instincts told her otherwise, though. Without hesitation, she told the pilot to turn left immediately and called out traffic that was departing the east complex of the airport. At this point, N7876C was tracking 097 degrees, aiming directly at JetBlue 94, who had just departed Runway 35L at MCO.
Gumbert: N76C, Orlando Departure, radar contact. And, uh, turn left heading 3-6-0, please. What was your assigned heading?
Gumbert: 06C, turn left immediately, traffic departing the east complex out of 700 an E-190. It appears you’re eastbound.
Gumbert: N76C, traffic alert. Traffic immediately beneath you E-190, 1,000 feet. Say your heading.
After changing the pilot’s heading, there was no response from him. Gumbert continued to maintain her professionalism and calmly issued a traffic alert before again asking the pilot of N7876C his heading. Finally, he casually replied that his heading was 360. Gumbert then issued the Citation an immediate left turn to 270. Instead of questioning the pilot’s actions, she instantaneously attempted to mitigate the situation.
Gumbert: N76C, turn immediately, heading 2-7-0. Immediately.
N7876C: 2-7-0, 76C.
The Citation and JetBlue aircraft narrowly avoided one another during takeoff, a result of Gumbert’s vigilance and expertise.
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