SFO has had a series of close calls over the past couple of years, which have caused the FAA to investigate whether the airport has systemic issues, and what can be done to prevent these issues going forward.
The most dramatic of these incidents was what happened to an Air Canada A320 flying from Toronto to San Francisco on July 7, 2017. The plane was supposed to land on runway 28R, but instead lined up with the parallel taxiway. That taxiway happened to have four planes parked on it (three of which were “heavies”), which were missed by a matter of feet. The initial investigation suggested that the planes got within 50 feet of one another, which is virtually nothing.
The NTSB has just released the following footage of the incident, which can really only be described as chilling:
For anyone who thought that 50 feet might not be that close, hopefully this puts into perspective just how close these planes got to one another.
Also, for anyone who didn’t hear it the first time around, here’s the ATC audio from that incident:
This had the potential to be the worst single aviation disaster in history, so thank goodness this was avoided. This incident is still under investigation.
That wasn’t Air Canada’s only incident at SFO last year. Just a few months later an incident occurred where an Air Canada plane on final approach was advised six times to go around, but ignored the instructions. That investigation is now complete, and The East Bay Times has the following summary of the incident:
The FAA concluded after speaking to the flight crew and probing other data that the “crew inadvertently switched from the SFO tower frequency to the SFO ground frequency after receiving their landing clearance.”
“The FAA deemed this event to be an isolated occurrence and not reflective of any systematic deficiencies at Air Canada,” according to a FAA spokesman.
Aimer said pilots often pre-set their radio channels, knowing that once they land they will switch to the ground frequency to get instructions on where to taxi, but this was too soon.
“The pilot should be wondering, ‘How come we don’t hear the tower any more? Why is there complete silence? Why are we hearing ground traffic?’ ” Aimer said. “I can’t understand how experienced pilots didn’t catch that. We’ve all done stupid things, but that’s why you have two people in the cockpit.”
The incident prompted the FAA’s Flight Standards Service executive director to meet with his Canadian equivalent, according to the FAA, which led to an immediate safety review of the air carrier’s entire operations, including increased pilot training and a closer look at the airline’s arrivals and departures at SFO.
While this was also a serious situation, it wasn’t nearly as close of a call as what had happened a few months prior, though that is still under investigation.
I just can’t get over that video…
(Tip of the hat to @mathprofk)