As I wrote about several days ago, on Friday, July 7, 2017, an Air Canada flight had an incident at SFO. The A320 was flying from Toronto to San Francisco, and accidentally lined up with the taxiway instead of the runway. To make matters worse, there were four planes on the taxiway that were waiting to take off, so you can imagine how much fuel they had.
The Air Canada pilots were clearly very confused, because on final approach they asked air traffic control to confirm that the runway was clear, because they saw lights on it. Air traffic control confirmed the runway was clear. The Air Canada plane only realized it was about to land on the taxiway when the pilots of one of the planes waiting for takeoff told ATC what was going on.
One thing we didn’t exactly know shortly after the incident is how close the planes actually got to one another. We had heard that the plane initiated its go around at roughly 400 feet, so it was my assumption that this was as close as the planes got to one another. That’s close, but as it turns out, this was a much closer call than that.
The Transportation Safety Board of Canada has released the initial findings regarding the incident, and it’s shocking/terrifying. Per the report, it is estimated that the plane overflew the first two planes on the taxiway by just 100 feet:
It is estimated that ACA759 overflew the first two aircraft by 100 feet, the third one by 200 feet and the last one by 300 feet. The closest lateral proximity between ACA759 and one of the four aircraft on Taxiway C was 29 feet.
That’s CRAZY. For reference, the A320 is ~123 feet long, so the A320 was less than a plane length from the plane on the taxiway.
Thank goodness the United pilot spoke up when he did. If it had been a second or two later, one can only wonder what might have happened.
Here’s a BBC News video recreating the incident: