Close call for Air Canada plane
Probe underway after jet lined up to land on busy taxiway, rather than runway, in San Francisco
Investigators looking into what caused an apparent close call involving an Air Canada flight at San Francisco International Airport are expected to examine whether human error or controller procedures played a role in the incident, an aviation expert said Tuesday
The state of the aircraft’s and controller’s equipment, and the design of the air space will also be under review as officials try to determine how a flight from Toronto came to line up with a taxiway rather than the runway as it prepared to land, said Barry Wiszniowski, president of Aviation Safety Management Experts.
An Air Canada Airbus A320 was cleared to land on one of the runways at the San Francisco airport just before midnight on Friday when the pilot “inadvertently” lined up with the taxiway, which runs parallel to the runway, the U.S. Federal Aviation Authority said.
There were four aircraft lined up on the taxiway waiting for departure when the incident occurred, the FAA said in a statement. The Air Canada plane eventually made another approach and landed without incident, it said.
According to a preliminary summary released Tuesday by Canada’s Transportation Safety Board, the Air Canada jet pulled up, and overflew the first two planes by just 30 metres.
The FAA and Air Canada are investigating what happened.
“One of the questions that they may ask is, were the pilots fatigued? ... Were they in their normal window of wakefulness?” Wiszniowski said. “There are a lot of questions that need to be asked.”
Wiszniowski said the safety systems in place managed to prevent what could have been a serious incident, noting that at least one previous case in which a plane landed on a taxiway where there were other planes resulted in multiple fatalities.
Thirty-four people died in February 1991 when a USAir Boeing 737 landed on a taxiway at Los Angeles airport and collided with a commuter plane, causing a massive explosion.
Air Canada said 135 passengers and five crew members were aboard its plane, but gave little other information, citing its own ongoing investigation.