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NTSB: Air Canada close-call at SFO was even worse than first reported

Federal investigators on Monday revealed startling new information about the July 7 close-call at SFO, saying that the Air Canada pilot that mistook a crowded taxiway for his approved runway actually flew over at least one plane on the ground before aborting his landing. National Transportation Safety Board investigators said in an initial report that Air Canada flight 759 from Toronto descended below 100 feet and aborted the landing “after overflying the first airplane on the taxiway.” ( 更多...

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Joseph Cooney 1
Has Air Canada responded and announced any disciplinary action toward the pilot. This is an unbelievable event ... the more I read the more convinced I am that the pilot/co-pilot were distracted and disconnected from their task.
John Meyer 7
I am a general aviation instrument rated pilot. I have owned and piloted several aircraft types through the last 40 years with various avionics on-board. I have always been concerned about making mistakes on visual approaches to airports that I am not familiar with. Things just look different from the sky and night landings are particularly confusing in populated areas with lots of "other" lighting. My solution has been, as a backup to visual runway identification, dial in the correct runway instrument approach on your avionics and check the needles to make sure you are on the desired track. With todays advanced avionics and flight management system in my current aircraft (Cirrus SR22 Perspective) the correct flight path is displayed like a video game, fly down the thru the boxes and land on the detailed runway on your PFD (pilot flight display). Pilots of this A320 got distracted or way to comfortable. In my opinion they didn't check off all the available boxes and make sure avoiding a disaster got the level of attention to detail required to do the number one job their career choice requires, "do everything you can to make sure your passengers and you get back on the ground safely".
tb1011 2
Often, replies are semi-literate and even vituperative. Yours is both lucid & concise. Thanks.


capt/fo/feo emeritus, Pan Am/∆
Highflyer1950 15
If you want to draw a scenario that fits the circumstance. Start with the Quiet Bridge Visual approach 28R. If everyone wants precision, start with the the damn ILS and screw the people that live near the airport! When these types of visual approaches creep into the system bad things happen. Night, fatigue it can all add up.
Or you can fly the rnp approach if you want precision and noise abatement. Seriously though, there shouldn't be a problem with visual approaches if visibility is good (the runways lights problem would be a reason to not do nighttime visuals). If you have a problem flying visual approaches then you might need to disconnect the automation a bit more!
Mike Mohle 2
You got that right!
matt jensen 1
I agree
Brent Bahler 10
Aren't we all glad Dave Jones, the California insurance commissioner, weighed in with a letter to AirCanada on his official state letterhead demanding a full investigation of the incident? Never mind that he has no expertise, nor any official capacity related to such matters (other than being a passenger on the aircraft). But he is known as a publicity hound with ambition and known to never pass up an opportunity to call attention to himself.
Mike Mohle 4
He might be up for election or something, and wants to get his 15 min.
joel wiley 1
That is utter nonsense. What do you mean 'might'. Undercard offices in California such as Insurance Comm, AG and especially Lt. Gov (whose main job is to check the obits daily to see if the Gov shows)are to get name identification with the voters.

That is not to say they occasionally inadvertently do something good. Even a blind pig finds an occasional truffle.
Bill Babis 3
When you get that feeling that sometin' ain't right, it usually isn't.
What part of BLUE taxiway lights vs. WHITE runway lights did the crew not comprehend?
Ant Miraa 1
If i saw correctly in photos and videos, sfo taxiway c does not have blue edge lights but rather blue reflectors. We have some like that here in yyz. All the pilots should only see is the green taxiway centerline lights
Cade foster 3
Wait for the results but I hope they don't find that all airports need to spend millions more of taxpayers money to install equipment that will prevent pilots/air controllers from letting this happen again.
David Loh 1
If the Air Canada pilots cannot visually make out that they are not heading for the runway, I really don't see how the tower people can make that out way over to the side of the runway. I have flown radio control planes and crashed my fair share of them. Most times it is hard to tell exactly what track my model planes were on that it took very long to locate my crashed models. Really, I feel the onus is on the pilots of a landing aircraft to land on the designated runway. If they land on an adjacent taxiway it is the pilot's fault solely.
Ant Miraa 1
The tower at sfo is offset to those runways. It wont be easy to tell untill too late unless they use the radar
James Derry 1
Our FMS can create a visual to any runway, giving an extended centerline and 3 degree "glidepath." Is this not a common FMS feature and is no one using this as a back-up?
Tom Pera 2
controller watching from new control tower - angle of observation changed?? could controller really see that
plane was not lined up with runway? looks like all on pilots.....In my ATC career there were several occasions where we "realigned" a plane on final... but nothing like this...
Brian Smith 1

Looking at the graphic in the news report. What is the baseline for the altitudes presented? For example, the 81 feet. Is this height above threshold, actual altitude, or perhaps another datum. Thank you.
joel wiley 1
How long does it take for an A320 to respond once TOGA is initiated? Had the crew already initiated it before the ATC's direction? Before the pilot called "he's on the taxiway"?
ashwin murali 1
even if the localizer was not operational, the crew could have programmed the approach in the FMC to guide them along the way. What about the taxi lights of the aircrafts taxing on C? That should have raised a red flag. Fortunately a major mishap was averted.
Helen Hecker 1
I'm not a pilot but isn't there any electronics that the control tower or pilot sees that they are not on the correct landing glide path?
Bill Babis 3
The problem here was lateral. Thank God the vertical path was corrected before tragedy struck. Regardless of how this pilot was descending, he was not alined left/right with the runway. There are multiple ways that this pilot could have verified his lateral alignment but he failed to do so. What needs to be determined is how he failed so as to prevent future occurrences.
Ant Miraa 1
Yes there is. That system is also used in low vis
the aircraft was conducting a "visual approach" - Which is exactly what it sounds like. A very common clearance from ATC.
Victor Engel 0
I think Helen may have been suggesting some airport infrastructure that can tell when a plane is off course. That would be independent of whether the approach is visual or not.
glang3 -1
How are "the regulators" going to "fix" this problem? Say, "Ok. No more flying at night."? I would say this: Put that same crew in the simulator and make them fly that same approach 100 times. Then, after saying 100 Hail Mary's, send them back to their job with the promise that it will never happen again. Screw all of this letting them "hang". If it was intentional, that's one thing. Certain mental attitudes we cannot deal with in aviation; I think we can all agree on that. But, we all make mistakes because we are all human. Plain and simple.
Billy Koskie 0
Is there any way this is some kind of a technical problem with the aircraft or ATC? The visual conditions make the assumption of human error almost too easy.
KW10001 -5
The incompetence here beggars belief. If you look at the overhead depiction of what happened, it looks like they stopped descending for several seconds as they approached PAL115. Then, they continue to descend once flying directly over it and only begin to climb once they come within 3 seconds of flying into UAL863. IMO, both of these pilots should lose their licenses. A mistake like this, in clear conditions no less, is inexcusable.
matt jensen -4
FAA Surface Movement Event Service location data to determine exactly where the plane was at 11:56:07 p.m. on July 7

That's at midnight! After the go around the jet landed at 0017am pdt
KW10001 -5

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Edison Demarco 0
Visual Approaches to major airports with multiple runways - This is a receipt for disaster...
Amazing that the tower, first officer or pilot didn't notice they were heading towards a taxiway not a runway!
When does the First Officer become a Pilot?
Trent Hopkinson 2
When he becomes "Pilot Flying" - but apparently not the case here. First officer should also be able to back up the pilot flying with hints. such as "You're well to the right of course" or "Looks like all the lights on 28 Left are off" or "Is that an aircraft on the runway?" or "Go around!" etc.

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Torsten Hoff 9
Yes, but...

Takeoff and landing are the most critical phases of the flight, so you can't afford not to be on your A game. How do you not notice the lack of threshold lighting, runway markings, or the other aircraft taxiing towards you?
Eric Schmaltz 5
Amen to that.
Bill Babis 3
Fatigue & Fixation come to mind but, as I'm sure even this crew would admit, there really is no excuse.
Bill Babis 5
Your high and mighty attitude needs top come down a few notches. All pilots and aviation enthusiasts for that matter deserve the same respect. Also, FYI, tuning the ILS would not have just helped, its the law.
Jim Turner 1
The duty of a pilot is to be fit for duty. if he or she is unable to fly safely due to fatigue hand off the duties. The 172 comment is crap. The difference is a 172 pilot will most likely only kill a hand full of people. This near miss could have killed hundreds. Just a little perspective.
And we've all seen it - Visual approaches assigned and the LOC turned off. At least most runways have an RNAV that can serve as a good back-up.
michael pierce -1
So then accepting fatigued flying is okay and makes this acceptable? Really? Stupid post!
Roch Comeau 2
Most incidents in aviation are due to a combination of events (not one single one). One of the realities of human endeavour is that humans are involved. Humans, being humans, get tired. This is not something to treat as a crime, but as something that is part of the many things that have to be considered when trying to make aviation safer (human factors). Pilot fatigue is a big topic being discussed at the moment. Transport Canada just proposed (or passed, not sure where it is at) new rules governing how many hours crew can work to try to address the issue of fatigue. The pilots representatives felt the rules did not go far enough to give pilots enough time to rest while some airlines said it would harm them financially by requiring significantly more crew to cover their schedules. So there is always a back and forth on that.

So yes, like cab drivers, doctors in hospitals, air traffic controllers, truck drivers and others who have long work days, we would prefer that everyone be bright-eyed and well rested when working, but the real world does push back at that, so we must keep all that in mind when looking to blame the pilot, who has to work in all these realities.
Not sure what your point was supposed to be. But don't want somebody this tired sitting up front in an airplane that I'm on, sharing the skies with me, or even flying over my house. If they can't tell by looking that this was not a runway (both of them) what else would they miss? How would they deal with a more demanding situation or an emergency? Take steps to resolve the problem, not just say- Hey, cab drivers, doctors, controllers, truck drivers do it. Your willingness to quantify it as the norm just feeds the problem. And as far as blame, unltimately, it does come down to the two humans in the cockpit. Hundreds of people came very close to dying in S.F that night. Glad somebody on the taxiway had their head on right and spoke up.
Roch Comeau 1
I guess I did not make my point. My point is that this is a problem that everyone faces. Understanding the problem is not an excuse but is the first step in finding a real solution. Demonizing the pilots does not solve the issue. Admitting that this is a widespread problem and this is just one more obvious example it makes it easier to discuss openly the extent of it and how to solve it. Firing these two pilots and saying the problem is solved is not going to solve the problem. Realizing that fatigue is something that all pilots face and all pilots have flown fatigued removes the stigma and makes it possible to get to the root of the real problem and thus enables real solutions to be sought.
Tom Pera -7
sounds like a union guy crying for a raise...
btweston 2
What do you think you sound like?
James Wilson Jr -1
87% of all aircraft accidents are caused by CREW ERROR. Flight crews "Get Your Head Out".

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Large airports like this usually have radar in the tower cab. They can tell if you are lined up. Even if not, the aircraft talks to approach control until accepting the visual but usually doesnt switch to tower until 5 miles out (large airports).
Robert Fleming -4
My GOD, that was TOO CLOSE!!!!!! Thankfully the UNITED pilot WOKE UP THE ATC about the near disaster.....WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT CONTROLLER THINKING, WAITING UNTIL HE WAS WOKEN UP TO TELL AC759 TO "GO AROUND"? This was partially their fault too!
744pnf 2
It is difficult at an oblique angle to see the flight path of aircraft, especially at night, from where the control tower is located.

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