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SFO near miss might have triggered ‘greatest aviation disaster in history’

Discussion in 'AviatorChat.com' started by Flash G, Jul 11, 2017.

  1. Flash G

    Flash G Three Time F1 World Champ
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    #1 Flash G, Jul 11, 2017
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 7, 2017
    Exclusive: SFO near miss might have triggered ‘greatest aviation disaster in history’

    Matthias GafniJuly 11, 2017 at 9:10 am
    SAN FRANCISCO — In what one aviation expert called a near-miss of what could have been the largest aviation disaster ever, an Air Canada pilot on Friday narrowly avoided a tragic mistake: landing on the San Francisco International Airport taxiway instead of the runway.

    Sitting on Taxiway C shortly before midnight were four airplanes full of passengers and fuel awaiting permission to take off, according to the Federal Aviation Administration, which is investigating the “rare” incident. An air traffic controller sent the descending Air Canada Airbus 320 on a “go-around” — an unusual event where pilots must pull up and circle around to try again — before the safe landing, according to the federal agency.

    FAA investigators are still trying to determine how close the Air Canada aircraft came to landing and potentially crashing into the four aircraft below, but the apparent pilot error already has the aviation industry buzzing.

    “If it is true, what happened probably came close to the greatest aviation disaster in history,” said retired United Airlines Capt. Ross Aimer, CEO of Aero Consulting Experts. He said he’s been contacted by pilots from across the country about the incident.

    “If you could imagine an Airbus colliding with four passenger aircraft wide bodies, full of fuel and passengers, then you can imagine how horrific this could have been,” he said.

    Peter Fitzpatrick, an Air Canada spokesman, said Flight AC759 from Toronto “landed normally without incident” after the go-around.

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    “We are still investigating the circumstances and therefore have no additional information to offer,” he said.

    The SFO spokesman referred inquiries to the FAA, saying the airport had no comment on the event.

    The aircraft had been cleared to land on Runway 28R, which runs parallel to that taxiway, according to the FAA. The pilot, flying the plane manually on a clear night, lined up wrong, the federal agency said.

    Audio from the air traffic controller communication — archived by a user on LiveATC.net and reviewed by this news organization — recorded the confused Air Canada pilot asking if he’s clear to land on 28R because he sees airplane lights on the runway.

    “There’s no one on 28R but you,” the air controller responds.

    An unidentified voice, presumably another pilot, then chimes in: “Where’s this guy going? He’s on the taxiway.”

    The air controller quickly tells the Air Canada pilot to go around, and adds, “It looks like you were lined up for Charlie (Taxiway C) there.”

    SFOgraphicA United Airlines pilot radios in: “United One, Air Canada flew directly over us.”

    “Yeah, I saw that, guys,” the control tower responds.

    The event has launched a discussion among airline circles, Aimer said.

    “This is pretty huge. My buddies called and asked if I knew about it,” the former pilot said. “They’re a sitting duck on the taxiway. They can’t go anywhere.”
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  2. dmaxx3500

    dmaxx3500 Formula 3

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    don't taxiways have blue lights?,and runways have white lights?
     
  3. beast

    beast F1 Veteran

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    Did Capt. Sum Ting Wong get hired on by Air Canada????

    It is time for the airlines to start checking for basic air manship skills on check rides seems like to many pilots just want to twist knobs a flip switches and let the automation do all of the work.

    http://avherald.com/h?article=4ab79f58&opt=0
     
  4. dmark1

    dmark1 F1 Veteran
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    Yes

    I suspect pilot fatigue was an issue here (and stupidity). I wonder what their duty day looked like? Pretty basic error here.

    Also wonder how high he was when he went around. 500 feet wouldn't be a huge deal but 100 feet would be borderline catastrophic and probably result in not only the loss of his job but a huge inquiry on the part of the FAA.
     
  5. dmark1

    dmark1 F1 Veteran
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    Absolute bull**** sorry. Most pilots (pretty much ALL pilots I knew) at AA hand flew the airplane to 10,000 feet up and down including all landings on every single leg. No one wanted to be a button smasher. Goes against the pilot grain.

    That crap is overblown and overplayed and just plain WRONG.
     
  6. Hannibal308

    Hannibal308 F1 Rookie
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    I'm not sure using automation has anything to do with this story anyway, as the article states the pilot was not using autopilot as it was a clear night. Had he been, the aircaft would have aligned with whatever runway the crew selected, right or wrong.

    As far as using auto goes, and granted my experience with this is next to nil, as in the F-16 we had an autopilot that I used only to cross large bodies of water alongside a tanker, usually, I will say the following experience contradicts what you say. My former wife flight attendant and I were anxiois to get home after a trip to Europe. We arrived in New York to large crowds and few seats for non revs such as us. My wife offered to work the flight for an open flight attendant seat and the captain, who she knew, made me a "US Air" pilot...dropping the "Force" from my real job, which allowed me to sit jump seat in his 757. We took off in weather 003OVC or so and went auto pilot just after gear up. Flew to Vegas on auto, intercepted a long arc to ILS final at McCarran, clear and a million night, all on auto til about 300-400 feet when the captain cracks his knuckles and tells the FO to take off the autopilot maybe 20-30 seconds before the flare. So, 5-6 hour flight with about 1 minute not on autopilot. Lots of very skillful knob turning, however. Never left me wondering about flying skills for that type of flying.
     
  7. Bob Parks

    Bob Parks F1 Veteran
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    With four airplanes sitting on the taxiway and some lights on , perhaps they overcame the taxiway lights, But, with the taxiway alignment at 280 and the runway alignment at 280 and with a separation of something like 200 feet, it seems to me that this is inviting an error. Something like a flashing bright light on the taxiway at an acquisition point would help. I can't fully blame this pilot.
     
  8. jcurry

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    From the partial ATC transcript shown in the OP it is obvious that the AC pilot realized something was not right, and I would guess that had he not been told by the twr to go-around he would have initiated it on his own. In other words, the term 'near miss' when used by the media has a different meaning than when used by people in the business.
     
  9. tazandjan

    tazandjan Three Time F1 World Champ
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    At least he did not land like Harrison Ford did. Luckily, everybody was heads up enough to preclude something that could have taken out several hundred people. With most major airports having parallel taxiways, and many with parallel runways and parallel taxiways, amazing it does not happen more often.
     
  10. donv

    donv F1 World Champ
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    I would say this was more of a case of a hyperventilating reporter hoping to get some clicks for his article...
     
  11. tazandjan

    tazandjan Three Time F1 World Champ
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    Don- Affirmative.
     
  12. Ferrari_250tdf

    Ferrari_250tdf Formula Junior

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    It reminds me a bit on an incident I once had in November 1988 when I was to fly with a Pan Am 747 from Frankfurt via Paris to Miami. Because of the fog all over Europe at that day the flight took off late in Frankfurt because the controllers in Paris couldn't didn't give the clearance to land there because of the very poor visibility. I was sitting behind the left wing in the almost empty 747, most passengers were expected in Paris, and was more or less enjoying the short hop in an very old and tired looking plane. On the approach to Paris we went down into the fog and I hardly saw the wingtip. Then the fog got darker and I thought we are close to the ground. The pilot put some thrust in the engines - maybe he was already preparing for something unexpected - and suddenly the fog was gone and I saw the runway. Only it was in some distance to the left of us! Under us only gras. Then the pilot instead of going around right away made a swift left turn to get over the runway. I thought that we are going to touch the ground with wingtip but fortunately that didn't happen. He made it over the runway but then he decided for a go around and gave full thrust and the outer left engine showed a nice fire tail of some excessive fuel. After some very long minutes the captain came with the info that his landing system was a bit offset but he will try again with the second system. Which was in the end successful. But the plane didn't continue to Miami so we had to take a detour via New York with another Pan Am 747.

    During the missed approach I didn't feel any fear, I was just watching. Only for the second approach I got scared and it took me many years to overcome the fear of landing.
     
  13. TheMayor

    TheMayor Seven Time F1 World Champ
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  14. Gatorrari

    Gatorrari F1 World Champ
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    If the map above is correct, I wonder why the aircraft waiting to depart would have been on taxiway C?

    I would expect that as in most runway pairs, the other runway, in this case 28L, would have been the departure runway, and the aircraft waiting to depart would have been on the other taxiway, the one on the terminal side of the two runways, which apparently is taxiway F.

    Or is SFO different for some reason?
     
  15. dmaxx3500

    dmaxx3500 Formula 3

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    they said 28L was closed and marked off with a large lighted x,,just do this on al taxi-ways too
     
  16. jcurry

    jcurry F1 World Champ
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  17. TheMayor

    TheMayor Seven Time F1 World Champ
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    Really? This seems pretty logical to me.

    “On a normal 3-degree glide slope, an aircraft descends 320 feet for every nautical mile flown,” Trescott explained in his blog Trends Aloft. “So at 175 feet, an aircraft would be 0.55 nautical miles from the touchdown zone. The typical landing speed for an A320 is around 130 knots to 140 knots. At 140 knots, an aircraft covers 2.33 miles per minute, so it could travel 0.55 nautical miles in a little over 14 seconds. Of course, if you figure a typical airliner is perhaps 40 feet high … then it would have been about 11 seconds to impact.”


    Even if it were 20 seconds to impact, that's still really, really close.
     
  18. jcurry

    jcurry F1 World Champ
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    If the min altitude was 175 agl that means they were climbing thereafter. Further it means they had already initiated the go-around PRIOR to sinking to 175. So the 11 sec calc is meaningless.
     
  19. Hannibal308

    Hannibal308 F1 Rookie
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    Agreed. Bottom line is it was a near miss to disaster. Pilot and copilot should be fired. No excuse. No checkrides, no appeals, no probation. This is full-up negligence beyond a minor mistake. Bye!

    ... cue all the numbnuts that thought the crazy Austin female pilot should ever again fly commercial...
     
  20. beast

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    SFO is kinda unique in the fact that they have arrivals on the 28's and most departures on the 1's except for departures heading west (Hawaii and Intl) will use the 28's. SFO also allows dual approaches into the 28's and seeing 2 aircraft landing side by side is not unusual there.

    https://www.planespotters.net/photo/006686/n381ua-united-airlines-boeing-737-322

    I flew out of SHO to Maui 1 year and we departed 28L via taxiway F and there were departures lined up on C as well for 28R.
     
  21. Gatorrari

    Gatorrari F1 World Champ
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    I thought there was a rule that simultaneous takeoffs or landings were only permitted on runways that were at least 1 mile apart.

    That's the way traffic is handled at ATL. The three sets of runways (one is not a pair, at least not yet) are each a mile apart, so three aircraft can land at once.
     
  22. TimN88

    TimN88 F1 Veteran

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    This is another example of why its a good idea to back up a visual approach with an instrument approach, especially at night. The few seconds it takes is time well spent to reduce your chances of lining up on a taxiway, or landing at the wrong airport.
     
  23. tantumaude

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    #24 tantumaude, Aug 3, 2017
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 7, 2017
    We've had this sort of thing happen at YYZ before--in fact, an aircraft once landed on our parallel taxiway.

    I just reviewed the NTSB update from yesterday. Apparently AC759 got to 59' AGL at lowest point. The picture from the surveillance camera showing them overflying UAL1 shows how close this was--perspective is a funny thing, but given the height of a B789 (55 feet), that is very close indeed.
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