An Air Canada Airbus A320 which lined up to land on a busy taxiway in San Francisco on July 7 is estimated to have flown just 100 ft (30m) above two of the aircraft as it aborted a landing and narrowly escaped disaster.
The plane carrying 135 passengers from Toronto avoided catastrophe when it was ordered to go around as it lined up on San Francisco International Airport’s taxiway C instead of a runway parallel to the taxiway, 28R.
An audio recording has the Air Canada pilot telling a controller that he sees lights on the runway and a controller replying there are no other planes on 28R and repeating the clearance to land.
A voice from a flight crew member of another airline is heard saying “Where’s this guy going, he’s on the taxiway” before the controller tells the Air Canada pilot to go around and the instruction is acknowledged.
A United Airline pilot tells air traffic control: “Air Canada flew directly over us.’’ The controller says: “Yeah I saw that guys’’.
There were four aircraft on the taxiway at the time and a preliminary report released late last week by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada says the Air Canada flight flew just 100ft above two of the planes as the pilots aborted the landing.
The A320 skimmed over the third at 200ft and the fourth at 300ft before returning to land safely on the runway.
According to the preliminary report, the A230 was on a visual approach and 0.6 nautical miles (3650 ft) from the runway threshold when the crew asked air traffic control to confirm their landing clearance.
It had overflown the taxiway for about a quarter of a mile when a controller responded to the query from the other airline and told ACA759 to go-round.
“The closest lateral proximity between ACA759 and one of the four aircraft on Taxiway C was 29 feet,’’ the report said.
US authorities are also investigating the incident, which has been described by one industry expert as an error that could have led to the greatest aviation disaster in history.
The deadliest accident in aviation history occurred on March 27, 1977, when two Boeing 747 jets collided on a runway at Tenerife in the Canary Islands, killing 583 people.
US authorities are investigating the San Francisco incident.