A picture and audio recording of a plane that almost crash landed into a busy taxiway has shed more light on what one aviation expert said could have been the “greatest aviation disaster in history”.
Air Canada Flight 759 was moments way from tragedy as it approached San Francisco International Airport, mistaking the taxiway for the runway, before pilots pulled the plane up again at just 18 metres above the ground to try another landing.
Just before midnight on 7 July, the plane approached within 100 feet of the taxiway, where four planes were waiting to take off.
United Airlines pilots queuing at the front of the taxiway alerted air traffic controllers, and Philippine Airlines pilots in the plane behind switched on their landing lights to signal danger.
In the audio recording, air traffic controllers can be heard communicating with the Air Canada pilots moments before the near-disaster, and the pilots ask the controllers if they are ok to land.
They are told the runway is clear and that there “is no one but you”.
Moments later, an unknown voice says, “Where is this guy going? They’re on the taxiway.”
The pilots are then told to “go around”.
At this point, close to the ground, the pilot dramatically pulls the plane back up to the sky.
A United Airlines pilot says to the control tower: “Air Canada flew right over us.”
Audio recording of the pilots as they talked between themselves during the landing and take-off was not available. The plane’s system only records the last two hours of the most recent flight, and the system was taped over by another flight the following morning.
The National Transportation Safety Board, which released the audio recording and an image of the incident, said an investigation was underway as to the cause of the near-disaster.
The pilot and co-pilot were very experienced with more than 30,000 flying hours between them.
Flight 759, carrying 140 passengers and crew, was reportedly so far off course as it approached the airport that it was missed by the radar system which is used to prevent runway collisions.
The pilots told NTSB investigators “that they did not recall seeing aircraft on taxiway but that something did not look right to them”.
The Federal Aviation Administration is reportedly now working to ensure the radar system is able to spot planes that approach the taxiway from the air, a previous blind spot.
Retired United Airlines captain…