Potentially Catastrophic Aviation Accident Averted at San Francisco Airport
An Airbus A320 that was supposed to land at San Francisco Airport’s 28R runway on July 7 headed toward a parallel taxiway for planes with loads of passengers about to take off and was diverted at the last minute averting what many say could have been the biggest disaster in aviation history. The Air Canada aircraft was headed to a taxiway as four airplanes, each carrying hundreds of passengers, were getting ready to take off.
Air traffic controllers cleared the plane for landing when the pilot of one of the planes on the taxiway called the tower frantically to let them know the airbus was headed straight toward them. The pilot thought he was landing on a runway that was empty, but he was actually heading towards Taxiway C, which had the four planes on it. He was diverted at the very last moment, averting the potential catastrophe, which could have claimed more than 1,000 lives.
What Could Have Been a Grave Error
How could this near-miss have happened? Typically, incoming international flights are directed to one of two runways in San Francisco airport. In the audio, the Air Canada pilot can be heard asking SFO control if he is heading towards the right runway. The reply he got was that he was confirmed to land. “There’s no one on 28-Right but you,” an air traffic controller told him.
But what the tower did not know was that the pilot wasn’t lined up for runway 28R at all. Instead he was headed for Taxiway C, which lies parallel next to 28R. After getting the alert from the pilot of one of the planes ready to take off, tower quickly told the Air Canada pilot to go around, avoiding a massive collision.
Officials say if the Airbus had colliding with four passenger planes full of fuel and passengers, it would have been a horrific event, without question the worst accident in aviation history. Air Canada has issued a statement saying they are investigating the circumstances of this incident. It is not clear if any action has been taken against the pilot. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has also launched an investigation.
We are absolutely relieved that this incident was a “near-miss” and not a catastrophic collision it could have well been. We trust the FAA, Air Canada and other authorities are looking into who or what caused this incident and how it can be prevented in the future.