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San Francisco airport catastrophe averted

July 13, 2017 Headline News No Comments Email Email

Details are emerging about a near miss that could have turned into a catastrophic collision – possibly the worst plane disaster in history – at San Francisco International Airport on Friday night.

The Mercury News, which circulates in the San Francisco Bay area, said the pilot of Air Canada flight AC759 appears to have narrowly avoided the tragic mistake of landing on the San Francisco International Airport taxiway instead of the runway.

The Air Canada pilot reportedly descended as low as 175 feet before realising his mistake and pulling up and over four fully-loaded passenger planes waiting to take off, the Mercury News reported, citing multiple online flight tracking systems.

The news outlet said one of the airport’s two runways was closed and dark at the time of the incident, and it seems just one air traffic controller may have been on duty in the tower.

The Aviation Herald, an authoritative aviation publication, included the following matter-of-fact but chilling sentence in its report: “The closest lateral proximity between AC-759 and one of the aircraft on taxiway C was 29 feet.” In other words, the Air Canada plane was less than 9 metres away from striking one of the other aircraft on the runway. That’s how close it was.

The Aviation Herald reported that other flight crew taxiing their aircraft on taxiway C at the airport said that the Air Canada A320 was flying straight over them.

According to air traffic control audio, it was only after a pilot in one of the planes on the ground warned that the Air Canada plane was heading towards him that the tower ordered a “go-around” and the pilot quickly pulled up.

“Where’s this guy going? He’s on the taxiway,” the unidentified pilot called over air traffic frequency.

“The A320 positioned for another approach and landed safely about 15 minutes later,” the Aviation Herald reported.

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is investigating the occurrence as a serious incident. There were four aircraft on taxiway C, which runs parallel to runway 28R to the right of the runway.

It’s estimated that about 1000 people were aboard the five aircraft in the incident, four on the ground and one in the air.

The following two-minute clip does not depict any of the planes involved in the incident but shows a night landing on the same runway, giving an idea of what it’s like.

Written by Peter Needham

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