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Back in July air traffic control barely averted what could have likely been the worst disaster in aviation history. An Air Canada jet nearly landed on a crowded taxiway. With less than 100 feet separating Air Canada flight 759 and the other planes on the taxiway, the tower gave the “go around” order at the last possible second.

It is entirely possible that all 140 people on board, along with hundreds more on the other four planes on the taxiway, would have been killed. This is one of the scariest near misses ever.

Another mishap at SFO??

On Sunday another Air Canada jet disregarded air traffic control orders, nearly landing on an occupied runway. Inbound Air Canada flight 781 from Montreal was given clearance to land, but the tower later gave the order to go around, as there was another aircraft on the runway. The request to abort the landing was made no less than six times in a minute. The Air Canada Airbus A320 didn’t respond.

The SFO tower eventually had to use a “red light gun” (something of which I’ve never heard), to attempt to signal the inbound aircraft. This is standard procedure in this situation. The crew didn’t respond to this either and continued to land. Fortunately, the other plane had cleared the runway before the A320 touched down.

The FAA is investigating the incident. After landing, the Air Canada crew informed the tower that they had a radio problem.

So…is it the Canadians? Or is it SFO?

Ok…so two data points aren’t really enough to honestly correlate anything. But it’s interesting that there were back-to-back incidents involving the same airport and same airline.

Supposedly, San Francisco International Airport can be “tricky” at night. I’ve never thought of it as tricky. Typically Lindbergh Field, or that crazy airport in Nepal, come to mind first when I think of tricky airports. But I’m not a pilot, so what do I really know. There are definitely others that concur that SFO is unique.

Let’s just hope that the FAA gets things sorted out to keep us all safer. This has me a bit unnerved, as I typically fly through SFO several times per year.

Featured image courtesy of Raimond Spekking under CC 4.0 license. 


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