On Friday, an Air Canada pilot reportedly narrowly missed crashing into four airplanes full of passengers and fuel awaiting takeoff at the San Francisco International Airport (SFO).
“If it is true, what happened probably came close to the greatest aviation disaster in history,” retired United Airlines Capt. Ross Aimer, CEO of Aero Consulting Experts, told the San Jose Mercury News. “If you could imagine an Airbus colliding with four passenger aircraft wide bodies, full of fuel and passengers, then you can imagine how horrific this could have been.”
The pilot of the Air Canada Airbus 320, which was landing in San Francisco from Toronto, almost accidentally landed on Taxiway C, which is where the other aircraft were waiting for permission to take off.
According to audio archived by a user on LiveATC.net, which was acquired by the Mercury News, the Air Canada pilot could be heard asking the air traffic controller if he was cleared to land on 28R, which runs parallel to Taxiway C.
“There’s no one on 28R but you,” the air controller told the Air Canada pilot. However, he accidentally flew towards the taxiway. Another pilot could be heard saying, “Where’s this guy going? He’s on the taxiway.”
The Air Canada pilot was then told to abandon the approach, and was later guided to the parallel strip where he was supposed to land. Peter Fitzpatrick, an Air Canada spokesman, told the Mercury News that the flight “landed normally without incident” after the pilot was told to go around.
FAA investigators are reportedly trying to determine how close flight AC759 came to crashing into the other airplanes.
Last week, UPI reported on “Previously unreleased video of the 2013 crash of a Boeing 777 in San Francisco” that left three dead: “Asiana Airlines Flight 214 from Seoul crashed as it arrived July 6, 2013 at San Francisco International Airport. Three of the 307 passengers and crew aboard died, and 187 were injured. Federal investigators determined that pilot error caused the plane to arrive too low at the airport runway.”
Friday’s potential crash could have been far worse.