Last Friday, Air Canada Flight 759 was forced to abort a landing attempt at San Francisco International after nearly touching down on one of the airport’s taxiways.
At the time of the incident, four planes were sitting on the taxiway waiting to take off.
Now we have an idea of just how close they came to disaster.
According to a preliminary reported by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, the Air Canada jet reportedly came within 100 feet of altitude from a collision with the first two planes and within 200 ft. and 300 ft. of the third and fourth planes respectively.
In addition, the report stated that AC759 was just 29 ft. to the side of the first plane on the taxiway.
The US Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the incident.
Flight 759, from Toronto to San Francisco, had been cleared to land on Runway 28R. Instead, the pilots, on a visual approach, inadvertently lined up for Taxiway C which runs parallel to the runway.
The Air Canada jet was instructed to abort the landing only after a pilot of one of the planes on the taxiway alerted air traffic control, the preliminary report said.
Had AC759 collided with the four jets, it would most likely have been one of the worst disasters in the history of commercial aviation.
Fortunately, the aircraft was eventually able to land safely with no injuries reported among the 140 passengers and crew on board the Airbus A320.
In a statement to Business Insider, Air Canada wrote:
“Air Canada flight AC759 from Toronto was preparing to land at San Francisco airport Friday night when the aircraft initiated a go-around. The aircraft landed normally without incident. We are still investigating the circumstances and therefore have no additional information to offer. It was an A320 aircraft with 135 passengers and five crew.”
Runway collisions have happened before and, in many instance with disastrous consequences. The most infamous example was the 1977 collision of two Boeing 747 jumbo jets in Tenerife in the Canary Islands that killed 583 people. In 1991, a US Air Boeing 737 landed on top of a SkyWest Airlines regional airliner, killing more than 30 people.
Here’s the Transportation Safety Board of Canada’s complete preliminary report:
“C-FKCK, an Airbus 320-200 aircraft operated by Air Canada, was conducting flight ACA759 from Toronto/Lester B. Pearson Intl, ON (CYYZ) to San Francisco Intl, CA (KSFO). As the aircraft was on a visual approach to Runway 28R at KSFO, ATC cleared ACA759 to land. Approximately 0.6 nautical mile from the runway threshold, the flight crew asked ATC to confirm the landing clearance for Runway 28R because they were seeing lights. ATC responded in the affirmative, and re-cleared ACA759 to land on Runway 28R. The controller was coordinating with another facility when a flight crew member from another airline taxiing on Taxiway C queried ATC as to where ACA759 was going, then stated that ACA759 appeared to be lined up with Taxiway C which parallels Runway 28R. ACA759 had overflown Taxiway C for approximately 0.25 miles when ATC instructed the aircraft to go around. Four aircraft were positioned on Taxiway C at the time of the event. 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. The NTSB is investigating.”