What would have been the most disastrous air accident in the world was last week averted at the San Francisco International Airport (SFO), California, USA.
The incident which happened Friday evening involved an Air Canada Airbus A320 aircraft performing flight AC759 from Toronto, Canada that attempted to land on a taxiway instead of the runway of the airport.
Four aircraft had already queued up on the taxiway waiting to be cleared to takeoff on the particular runway Air Canada was supposed to land on.
According to reports, the aircraft was cleared to land on runway 28R, but the pilot appeared to line up on a taxiway just a few feet from the assigned runway.
The pilot of the inbound aircraft was informed of the mistake only after a pilot of an aircraft waiting to takeoff from the same runway alerted air traffic control to the approach of the Air Canada A320.
The air traffic controller then ordered a go-around to avert what could have been a serious accident. The Canadian plane completed a go-around and landed safely a few minutes later.
According to Flight tracking websites, the Airbus had descended to about 200 feet on its approach, before initiating a go-around, narrowly missing the four waiting planes.
There were four aircraft waiting on the taxiway including three from United Airlines and one belonging to Philippine Airlines all of which were estimated to be carrying close to 1,000 people.
A pilot from one of the United Airlines aircraft was said to have alerted the SFO Air Traffic Control to the Air Canada’s A320 approach.
San Francisco International has four runways that are close together and are arranged in two parallels. It is not clear why the Air Canada pilot wrongly identified a taxiway as a live runway.
The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTBS) are investigating the incident.
On 27 March 1977, the world witnessed a very deadly aviation accident at Tenerife Airport, Canary Islands in which a total of 583 people died. The accident which involved two Boeing 747 aircraft is regarded as the deadliest aviation accident in the world.
Photo by Tim Ellis