Abort! Airliner nearly arrive on other San Francisco airplanes

Tuesday, July 11, 2017|4:22 p.m.

SAN FRANCISCO– The pilot of an Air Canada aircraft bring 140 travelers made a last-minute maneuver to prevent landing on a San Francisco International Airport taxiway where 4 traveler jets were lined up to take off.

The Federal Air travel Administration said Tuesday it is examining why the pilot incorrectly lined up to land on the taxiway rather of the runway simply to the left. An air traffic controller bought the Jet 320 to terminate and circle for another landing, which it did without incident.

Aviation-safety consultant Todd Curtis called the incident “absolutely a serious event since a landing on an active taxiway could cause a catastrophic accident.”

In audio posted on liveatc.net, which tapes flight interactions, the pilot on the plane from Toronto and the air traffic controller sounded calm as the event unfolded.

Initially, the pilot stated he sees “some lights on the runway,” apparently mentioning planes on the taxiway, the air travel equivalent of feeder roadways that aircrafts use to roll between runways and terminals.

The controller guarantees the pilot there is nobody on the runway. Seconds later on, another voice– obviously among the pilots on the taxiway– inserts “Where’s this person going? He’s on the taxiway.”

The controller orders the Air Canada jet to “walk around,” and the pilot acknowledges the command.

Approximately 30 seconds later on, a United Airlines pilot on the taxiway states the jet “flew straight over us.”

FAA spokesman Ian Gregor would not comment on how close Air Canada Flight 759 from Toronto came to disaster, pointing out the continuous investigation.

The event, which Air Canada says it is investigating, was initially reported Monday by the Bay Area News Group.

It is rare for pilots to mistake a taxiway for a runway and when it occurs it typically involves little planes at smaller airports. Taxiways do not have the same distinct markings and lighting that appear on runways.

Earlier this year, actor Harrison Ford flew over an airliner and landed his little aircraft on a taxiway John Wayne Airport in Southern California. The FAA did not sanction Ford.

Crashes on the ground are especially unsafe because planes waiting to remove are packed with fuel. The worst crash in aviation history took place in 1977 when a KLM Boeing 747 taking off in the Canary Islands raked into a Pan Am 747 that was waiting to take off; 583 individuals passed away in the crash and fires.

In December 2015, an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 arrived at a main taxiway at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Nobody was hurt.

Several air travel safety professionals noted that while safety systems did operate in the end, the incident was severe and could have produced a destructive mishap.

Detectives will focus on “how did this series of errors happen, and why didn’t safeguards begin earlier than they did?” said John Cox, a security expert and retired airline pilot.

Cox said it was likely that even if the air traffic controllers didn’t order the Air Canada aircraft to pull up and make another technique, the team would have seen aircrafts on the taxiway in time to prevent landing on them.

He stated pilots practice low-altitude go-arounds and can perform them even 20 or 30 feet above the ground.

Private investigators will be able to identify the Air Canada plane’s elevation and exact place using the flight-data recorder.

Chris Manno, an American Airlines pilot for 32 years who routinely lands in San Francisco, agreed that a crash was unlikely even without a command to walk around.

The pilot “is not just blindly going to state I’m going to land on these airplane,” he stated.

Curtis said it was difficult to understand how often commercial pilots line up their landing for a taxiway rather of a runway because government databases just record that if there is a mishap or serious event.

A spokesman for San Francisco’s airport declined to comment.

Pritchard reported from Los Angeles. Associated Press Airlines Author David Koenig contributed from Dallas.

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