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Air Canada flight nearly lands on taxiway at San Francisco International Airport

Details are emerging about what could have been a serious incident at San Francisco International Airport last Friday night when an Air Canada plane from Toronto nearly landed on the taxiway. With ATC text ( More...

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James Carlson 12
Great catch by the UAL crew waiting to go who called out that ACA was lined up on the taxiway. They're the real heroes here!
Warren Craycroft 4
Absolutely The scariest comment I've heard on this incident is that "the checks and balances worked as designed" so nothing really to see here. It appears to me that the checks and balances were running low, and that the UAL's radio call was an important contributing factor in averting a "Canary Islands times 4" catastrophe.
Dave Fisher 5
I heard former NTSB Chairman, Mark Rosenker, commenting on the recent SFO event. This type of mistake is not that uncommon and the FAA needs to improve runway markings at certain problem airports.
(From a report in 2005)
Pilots mistake taxiway for runway at Sea-Tac
At least eight times in five years, experienced pilots from five airlines have mistaken Taxiway Tango for Runway 16R.
bellczar 12
The inbound flight was AC 879, an A320 from YYZ. Sitting on the taxiway C were (in order) UAL 1, a B787-900 bound for Singapore; PAL 115; an A340-300 bound for Manila; UAL 863, a B787-900 bound for Sydney; and UAL 1118, a B737-900 bound for Cancun. If all five planes had been involved, it could easily have been the greatest aviation disaster in history.
Tony Perez 6
How close did AC get before a go-around was ordered? The pilots were clearly concerned about lights across the runway and were probably getting ready to go around anyway (they should have been trained "When In Doubt - Go Around"). If they were close enough, they would've noticed the lights were blue instead of white.
Also, they would've noticed their CDI (course deviation needle) or localizer diamond drift further to the left.

No, I'm not an ATP but I DID stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night. (hehe) So the above are just my thoughts from my freshman year of training.
Jad Khoriaty 3
Preliminary reports say it passed 100 feet above the first 2 aircrafts lined up on the taxiway, 200 feet above the 3rd aircraft and 400 feet across the last one.
Ken McIntyre 1
400 feet
Ken McIntyre 1
I should say 400 MSL.
Tony Perez 1
What was the Minimums?
Ken McIntyre 1
Situation was VFR at the time
Dave Fisher 1
yes, and all those taxiing aircraft brimming with fuel... :0
patrick baker 4
makes the case for using a localizer approach set up even in visual clearances.
Colin Seftel 4
This news bulletin mentions that 28L was out of service and unlit, so the Air Canada pilot might have mistaken 28R for 28L and therefore lined up with the taxiway on the right.
1BabyGirl 4
With two flight crew members making the approach at least one of them should have noticed the error and corrected before it became a serious safety factor. If I were flying one of those aircraft waiting for departure on Charlie I would be yelling long and loud to find out why my life was put in such danger.
panam1971 4
Pilots and controllers are human. Errors are bound to happen.
jangle1 7
Atis would undoubtedly have revealed one of the parallel runways was closed. That may have been overlooked by one or both in the cockpit. Since the closed runway lights were off, the sight picture was not what was expected and a lazy brain simply lined up on the right side lights. Very unprofessional and inexcusable, yes, and something you might expect from an inexperienced private pilot.
ken young 2
Ok...Why would the instructions clear to land on a runway that was closed?
Michael Osmers 5
28R was the active runway and the clearance to land was on 28R. The issue here is that 28L was closed with 28R used for takeoff and landing. Usually at SFO on approach you can clearly see the two closely spaced parallel runways illuminated. In this case, with the lights off on 28L jangle1 above speculates that the visual illusion might lead the crew to think 28R (illuminated) was mistaken for 28L (unilluminted) and line up on taxiway C (thinking it was 28R!) which was also illuminated but of course in blue and green which indicate a taxiway… without access to the NOTAMS, I also wonder if the ILS was on, which it almost always is...
ken young 3
I have read about issues with KSFO's ILS . In fact in the Chinese air carrier crash, the ILS was down that day.
I see your point. Howevwer, unless there were issues with visibility, I cannot fathom how the AC pilot mistook green/blue for the normal colors marking a runway.
From my view this pilot simply had a brain fart.
waldo kitty 1
at least one article stated that 28L had its threshold lights (??) configured to a huge 'X' to additionally indicate that 28L was closed... that should have also been a clue to the A320 pilot that they were lined up wrong...
daniel sorrell 3
Stay on the instrument approach especially at night
Bryan Jensen 0
There is the solution. Listen up everybody, yes you to prima donnas.
cyberjet 4
They were flying an offset visual approach. How exactly were they supposed to follow the ILS?
bettiem 1
I think that what Daniel and Brian mean is that a visual approach should not have been an option unless instruments defective / off. i.e. that instrument / ILS/ localizer mandate reduces error possibility, like it or lump it. In other words, that statistics must rule without allowance for human unnecessary choice. (That said, human control intervention must remain a vital part of supervised, planned and controlled training and evaluating.)
alex hidveghy 2
when I was still flying, our briefing for visual approaches were ".....backed up by the ILS....". there was a reason for that. And yes, I have flown in to SFO, was actually based there for a while. The visual approach is offset but you can pick up the localizer from about 5 miles straight-in - if it's working!
Michael Osmers 1
Additionally, modern aircraft have the runways and approaches in the Flight Management Computer (FMC) so even if the ILS is off line, at the very least the runway and its center line are clearly visible as well as navigatable in LNAV. Caviot, I've never flown an Airbus, only Boeings so I guess I'm speaking to that, any Airbus folks out there care to comment on the VNAV state of the navigation system in regard to a raw approach?
Chris B 3
Video of landing on 28R at night here:
joel wiley 1
Nice video. Can't see Taxiway Charlie tho.
Jad Khoriaty 1
The taxiway's green light are more bright than the lights on the runway but it's they're very clearly green!
Bryan Jensen 0
Wrong, taxiway lights are blue.
Michael Osmers 3
taxiway centerline lights are green, SFO has LEDs and they are in fact very bright… but as already noted, they are clearly green!
alex hidveghy 1
yes, the EDGE lights are blue, but the center line lights are green for a TWY!
Scott Campbell 6
Hey if Harrison Ford can do it why not Air Canada
joel wiley 3
SNA Taxi A was empty, KSFO Taxi C wasn't. And the jury is still out on whether he got away with it, unless I missed the FAA final report.
Tony Perez 2
He got away with it.
Yeah, but he is Indiana Jones AND Han Solo!!!! Man flew the Millennium Falcon...who are we to judge????
Forensics1 1
He, or she, got away with it...

In any event I am very happy that after it was all said and done, whoever it was, 'got away with it' in terms of the worst possible accident.
Roch Comeau 7
Seems that the whole "Greatest aviation disaster in history" line a bit overblown? Any missed approach or runway incursion could cause a serious disaster, but "could", "might" mean it did not happen. How many layers of checks and protection were left? No one would blindly land into a row of airplanes so this is a story of how a plane got uncomfortably close to a big mistake but still not imminent. Worthy of investigation and corrective action no doubt, but to harp on the worst case scenario that never happened is not terribly helpful.
Jad Khoriaty -1
The problem was that they noticed "lights on the runway" and still went for it.
cyberjet 5
That's a little unfair. They enquired with the tower and were given the all clear. That response would introduce some doubt that would take a little time to sort through. Unlike forum commenters who can play Monday morning quarterback, they have to assess and make decisions in real time. We still don't know if they were already in the process of going around when the order came from the tower. Once the investigation is complete, we will have a better idea of all the factors that contributed to the incident.
Forensics1 1
Well said.
Highflyer1950 2
Harrison Ford was the PIC? Seriously, I don't think AC would have landed but at 3 or 4 miles out they may have lined up with the taxiway, It wouldn't be the first time an air carrier has done that or even landed at the wrong airport. Kinda makes you wonder what navaids were tuned and who was looking at them, if anyone?
Tony Perez 3
Let's see...the runway is the one with the approach lights extending out into the bay. Now I think KSFO has a weird staggered offset ILS approach alternating between 28L and 28R, so if the PIC was trying to do an offset approach to 28R but using the wrong ILS (I'm not sure exactly how that works), that would be my guess of what happened.
Highflyer1950 1
Maybe, at that time of night they might have been flying the "Quiet Bridge Visual" 28R, which is slightly offset until you reach the San Mateo bridge. Who knows?
James Wilson Jr 2
87% of all chashes and accidents in aircraft are caused by Crew Error. Get your head out flight crew .
planecrazy707b 2
I don't think it comes close as the Teneriffe disaster back in 1977 involving two 747-100 jets PAN AM KLM
Tony Perez 2
Sounds like Harrison Ford was the PF; not to resurrect that joke, but it sounds very similar - trying to land on Taxiway C and flew over a commercial jet.
Is this a "thing" now?
sharon bias 1
I thought the same thing.
Kristin2555 1
Is anyone concerned that only one pilot noticed Air Canada's misalignment? I would hope that general situational awareness should have meant all of the pilots lined up should have noticed the Air Canada plane was coming directly at them and not the runway. Are both the PF and PM too busy with other tasks at this point in time and not expected to be generally aware of the macro situation around them? (I'm only a passenger with an interest in ATC so forgive me if this is an obvious question.)
Don Sitter 1
Reading through all the threads/comments, this thought sticks with me: is possible to get lined up on TW C without the CDI's and command bars being way out? If one ILS is down, can you actually offset a good one to the Runway with the inop ILS? Nothing I've flown ever had that ability--but that is what I seem to see inferred here. Thx
Richard Loven 1
It takes some of the heat off Harrison. I doubt Air Canada would have landed on another airplane. Also they would notice the misalignment and abort on their own. I imagine United was glad to point out a mistake instead of being on the Doo Doo end of the stick like they have been lately.
Steve Geraci 1
Would a simple strobe light at the end of the runway be a good visual aid for approach?
James Carlson 3
Sure. I vote we call it a "REIL."
Tony Perez 2
No because the planes have strobes.
bwalko 1
If you remove flight deck error, the root cause is SFO will not expand its runways into the bay. SFO has/is spending billions on runway repaving, new ATC tower, major terminal renovations, a hotel and long-term parking garage. But this will not resolve the congestion as traffic increases and IFR conditions are becoming the norm. Maybe they should take some lessons from Beijing's new South China Sea islands.
Mary McElyea 1
Phew.....First time into SFO? Thank goodness everyone safely traveled that night.....
Andrea De Biase 1
I'm not a pilot nor an expert and yet i wonder, how do you not see that you are aligned with a piece of asphalt that has no landing markings, no PAPI (or whatever you call it) and has planes on it??? even without the tower eventually the pilot would have gone around i like to believe
There have been times that I've experienced runway lights dimmed down so low that they are no more bright than taxiway lighting. I hope they will investigate this as a possible contributing factor. Additionally, if anyone has NOTAMS for SFO if might be interesting to see is any lighting was out of service, REIL's for instance.
Bryan Jensen 1
Could color blindness have been a factor?
Bob Myers 1
Very, very unlikely. The most common form of color blindness by far results in the inability to distinguish certain shades of red and green, so this would not result in confusion between runway and taxiway lighting on the basis of color. The most extreme (and VERY uncommon) form of color blindness, the complete inability to see in color, would disqualify a prospective pilot in the first place.
Allen Lalor 1
Harrison Ford's birthday was 7/13. Maybe this was a subconscious early celebration of his prior near mishap. Seriously, I am glad nobody got hurt.
Steve Gibson 1
I'm not a pilot, but occasionally play one in front of the computer, so feel free to disregard my blatherings... but aren't there super bright white approach lights that point DIRECTLY to the runway? Like, "here's where you land, dude". Not to the left, not to the right, but RIGHT HERE. Unless those lights were malfunctioning I don't understand how this can happen.
Tony Perez 2
Yes, they extend out into the bay.
joel wiley 1
Someone radioed he was lining up on the taxiway, and ATC ordered go around. As the saying goes, it takes a village ...
Casey McGinty 0
(Duplicate Squawk Submitted)

SFO near miss might have triggered ‘greatest aviation disaster in history’

In what one aviation expert called a near-miss of what could have been the largest aviation disaster ever, an Air Canada pilot on Friday narrowly avoided a tragic mistake: landing on the San Francisco International Airport taxiway instead of the appropriate runway.
Cade foster -1
Hey remember its an Airbus aircraft so actually the computer needs to be blamed since it does the flying.
Tony Perez 1
Maybe the joystick got unplugged from the joystick port!
patrick baker 0
blue lights are taxiways. Yellowish ones, which also have red and green light patterns at their tips, are where we generally aim the airplane to contact the runway. It also has a number, in big white blocks from 1 to 36. That is another clue. seriously, someone ought to look down the runway after dark to see if there is extraneous light emmissions, otherwise use the runway.
Tom Pera 0
blue lights...white lights??? what was he looking at? was he looking? auto land lined up on taxiway??huh?
Highflyer1950 4
Again, if on the QB Visual 28R, the approach course is offset to the right, so to anyone on " charlie" the ac would appear right of course. The other puzzling thing is what setting were the runway lights set to and whether all the planes on "charlie" had their taxi lights on because from 3-4 miles out, it would be hard to distinguish one from the other. Just an opinion.
Chinabound 1
Finally an opinion that is correct! Of course it was the taxi lights that caused the pilots to question their approach.
Jeff Phipps -1
They just wanted to save time for their passengers and go straight for the taxi lanes. They apparently wanted the terminal landing but the pattern was full.
scott8733 -1
Could be that Geico was filming a follow up commercial on 28R when the 320 was just a few hundred feet off the deck, and the PIC was the only one who noticed.

It's possible, people.
Mike Williams -2
Maybe the pilots are Newfies. There is an old joke heard in Canada about the Newfie who found the airport run way was very wide and short!
joel wiley 1
That is about the 6th or 7th identifiable group to which I have heard that attributed.
It's right up there with " Group <A> just bought 5000 septic tanks. As soon as they learn to drive them they are going to invade country <B>".

Neither adds to the idle discussion while we await the FAA/NTSB report.
Eric Schmaltz -2
Boy, when I fly I'd like to think the pilot has done this landing thing 1000 times before at the airport I'm flying to! Night,day,fog,rain or snow. Makes you wonder how often this happens and doesn't get reported to the media.
cyberjet 2
That's ludicrous. How do they get to 1000 landings if they never get the chance to do the other 999?
Lucio DiLoreto -9
Morons in the cockpit.
Larry Coleman 3
Moron at the keyboard.


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