Three months after an Air Canada flight narrowly avoided causing the “greatest aviation disaster in history,” a second Air Canada jet ignored a San Francisco air traffic controller’s repeated orders to abort a landing at San Francisco International Airport (SFO), sparking an investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
“The Air Canada crew did not acknowledge any of the controller’s instructions,” FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said of Air Canada Flight 781, according to the East Bay Times.
The Airbus A320 was reportedly preparing to land on SFO on Runway 28-Right (28R) after a six-hour flight from Montreal. Although the crew acknowledged clearance to land when the jet was six miles away from the airport, as the plane approached the runway, “an air traffic controller repeated six straight times for the Air Canada pilot to execute a ‘go-around’ — an aborted landing where the plane pulls up and circles around to approach again,” noted the Times.
The air traffic controllers thought there was still another plane on the same runway.
However, the pilots did not respond and landed the Air Canada flight safely on Runway 28R at 9:26 p.m., and the plane that controllers thought was still there had cleared the area.
After landing, the Air Canada crew reportedly alerted the tower it had a radio problem. Had there been another plane on Runway 28R, the results could have been disastrous.
“After receiving proper clearance to land it proceeded to do so and landed normally,” Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick said in a statement released by the airline Tuesday. “Upon landing the crew was informed the tower had attempted unsuccessfully to contact the aircraft, however, the message was not received by the crew. Air Canada is investigating the circumstances.”
On July 7, an Air Canada flight from Toronto nearly collided with four fully-fueled passenger planes, on a parallel taxiway to 28R.
“There’s no one on 28R but you,” the air controller told the Air Canada pilot at the time. However, the pilots accidentally flew towards the taxiway. They eventually landed safely, but the FAA reportedly opened an investigation to determine how close flight AC759 came to crashing into the other airplanes.