Air Canada near miss averted ‘worst crash’ ever

Bangkok Post - - WORLD -

>> OT­TAWA: A near miss in­volv­ing an Air Canada plane which al­most landed on a crowded taxi­way in­stead of a run­way at San Fran­cisco air­port last year could have been the “worst avi­a­tion ac­ci­dent in history”, ac­cord­ing to an of­fi­cial re­port.

The Air Canada Air­bus A320 car­ry­ing 140 peo­ple was cleared to land on Run­way 28-Right at San Fran­cisco In­ter­na­tional Air­port shortly be­fore mid­night on July 7, 2017 — but the pi­lot in­ad­ver­tently lined up for Taxi­way C, where four planes were wait­ing to take off.

“Only a few feet of sep­a­ra­tion pre­vented this from pos­si­bly be­com­ing the worst avi­a­tion ac­ci­dent in history,” said Bruce Lands­berg, vice chair­man of the Na­tional Trans­porta­tion Safety Board while an­nounc­ing the agency’s re­port is­sued late on Fri­day.

“The in­ci­dent air­plane de­scended to an al­ti­tude of 30 me­tres above ground level and over­flew the first air­plane on the taxi­way,” the re­port said.

“The in­ci­dent flight crew ini­ti­ated a go-around, and the air­plane reached a min­i­mum al­ti­tude of about 18m and over­flew the se­cond air­plane on the taxi­way be­fore start­ing to climb,” it added, not­ing none of the five flight crewmem­bers or 135 pas­sen­gers aboard the Air Canada plane were in­jured.

The re­port said the flight crew’s misiden­ti­fi­ca­tion of the taxi­way as the intended run­way “re­sulted from the crew’s” lack of aware­ness of the par­al­lel run­way’s clo­sure due to a mal­func­tion­ing of the re­view of no­tice to air­men (NOTAM) in­for­ma­tion sys­tem on­board as the plane pre­pared to make its fi­nal ap­proach brief­ing”.

Other con­tribut­ing fac­tors were “the flight crew’s fail­ure to tune the in­stru­ment land­ing sys­tem fre­quency for backup lat­eral guid­ance, ex­pec­ta­tion bias, fa­tigue due to cir­ca­dian dis­rup­tion and length of con­tin­ued wake­ful­ness, and break­downs in crew re­source man­age­ment”.

An au­dio record­ing of t he ra­dio ex­changes be­tween air traf­fic con­trol and the pi­lot of Air Canada flight 759 was posted on­line shortly af­ter the in­ci­dent.

Just mo­ments af­ter re­ceiv­ing per­mis­sion to land on the des­ig­nated run­way, the Air Canada pi­lot re­turned to the ra­dio sens­ing that some­thing was amiss.

“Uh, Tower, I just want to con­firm — this is Air Canada 759 — we see some lights on the run­way there, across the run­way, can you con­firm we’re clear to land?”

The tower re­sponded: “Air Canada 759 con­firmed clear to land Run­way 28-Right. There is no one on 28-Right but you.” “OK, Air Canada 759,” the pi­lot replied. An uniden­ti­fied man’s voice then broke in — pre­sum­ably a pi­lot in one of the air­craft wait­ing to take off. “Where’s this guy go­ing? He’s on the taxi­way,” he said.

Air traf­fic con­trol im­me­di­ately told the Air Canada pi­lot not to land.

“Air Canada go around,” the tower said. “In the go-around, Air Canada 759,” the pi­lot re­sponded.

The pi­lot of a United Air­lines plane on the ground told the tower mean­while that “Air Canada flew di­rectly over us”.

“Yeah, I saw that too guys,” the tower replied.

CLOSE CALL: An Air Canada plane pre­pares to land at San Fran­cisco In­ter­na­tional Air­port.

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