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NTSB: Air Canada close-call at SFO was even worse than first reported

Federal investigators on Monday revealed startling new information about the July 7 close-call at SFO, saying that the Air Canada pilot that mistook a crowded taxiway for his approved runway actually flew over at least one plane on the ground before aborting his landing. National Transportation Safety Board investigators said in an initial report that Air Canada flight 759 from Toronto descended below 100 feet and aborted the landing “after overflying the first airplane on the taxiway.” ( さらに...

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If you want to draw a scenario that fits the circumstance. Start with the Quiet Bridge Visual approach 28R. If everyone wants precision, start with the the damn ILS and screw the people that live near the airport! When these types of visual approaches creep into the system bad things happen. Night, fatigue it can all add up.
toolguy105 11
IS this a problem with 28R the ILS approach brings them to close to residential area. If so I have two words for the residents and they are not Happy Birthday. The airport was there long before they were and they should have expected noise from the airport as part and parcel of the airport
FMS Bridge Visual is a SOIA procedure to provide min sep for simultaneous closely spaced parallel runway ops for 28L and 28R.
But,......can only be used when it's good VFR! When IMC or even partial IMC, that's when the delays start because spacing is automatically increased and volume goes down by almost one half. Lots of holds, speed reductions or ground stops. C'est la vie in certain geographical locations that have challenging weather.
T K 1
Separation rules remain the same regardless of weather. ATC can run reduced separation during VFR because they use visual separation.
It is the sep for the closely spaced parallels that is reduced, not the sep in trail.
The "Quiet Bridge Visual" just keeps the a/c further away from residential noise sensitive areas than the ILS.
Are you talking about the Chinese dish UCK FOO?
Or you can fly the rnp approach if you want precision and noise abatement. Seriously though, there shouldn't be a problem with visual approaches if visibility is good (the runways lights problem would be a reason to not do nighttime visuals). If you have a problem flying visual approaches then you might need to disconnect the automation a bit more!
You got that right!
bob dehn 1
have the faa look into this..
John Meyer 15
I am a general aviation instrument rated pilot. I have owned and piloted several aircraft types through the last 40 years with various avionics on-board. I have always been concerned about making mistakes on visual approaches to airports that I am not familiar with. Things just look different from the sky and night landings are particularly confusing in populated areas with lots of "other" lighting. My solution has been, as a backup to visual runway identification, dial in the correct runway instrument approach on your avionics and check the needles to make sure you are on the desired track. With todays advanced avionics and flight management system in my current aircraft (Cirrus SR22 Perspective) the correct flight path is displayed like a video game, fly down the thru the boxes and land on the detailed runway on your PFD (pilot flight display). Pilots of this A320 got distracted or way to comfortable. In my opinion they didn't check off all the available boxes and make sure avoiding a disaster got the level of attention to detail required to do the number one job their career choice requires, "do everything you can to make sure your passengers and you get back on the ground safely".
tb1011 9
Often, replies are semi-literate and even vituperative. Yours is both lucid & concise. Thanks.


capt/fo/feo emeritus, Pan Am/∆
Very good observation! As a former GA pilot myself and one that has also flown the A320 AND in to SFO dozens of times, I have to say, that something definitely went wrong in that cockpit that night. Whether it was distraction, visual impairment whatever, I don't know.
However, all the airlines I have worked at SOP for an approach and landing brief for a visual approach was : ...visual approach to RWY xx @ SFO, backed up by the ILS, freq is.....FAF is.....go-around alt is..... Point is, we ALWAYS backed up visual approaches with the onboard instruments and avionics. That's what saves your ass!!
Aren't we all glad Dave Jones, the California insurance commissioner, weighed in with a letter to AirCanada on his official state letterhead demanding a full investigation of the incident? Never mind that he has no expertise, nor any official capacity related to such matters (other than being a passenger on the aircraft). But he is known as a publicity hound with ambition and known to never pass up an opportunity to call attention to himself.
Newsflash for Mr. Jones: Every airplane, every flight, every minute is at a "risk of loss".
He might be up for election or something, and wants to get his 15 min.
That is utter nonsense. What do you mean 'might'. Undercard offices in California such as Insurance Comm, AG and especially Lt. Gov (whose main job is to check the obits daily to see if the Gov shows)are to get name identification with the voters.

That is not to say they occasionally inadvertently do something good. Even a blind pig finds an occasional truffle.
Not to be a pedant, but don't pigs find truffles by scent?
Yup! Bingo!!
Wrong metaphor.............
Exactly. ;-)
It was shockingly inappropriate for him to be using letterhead to air a personal grievance. There was nothing in the letter presenting his request in any official capacity. Huge public blunder.
If there had been a crash; his office would likely have been involved in the insurance settlements.
Ah heck, he is probably running for higher office. Is this the same guy who chased Uber and Google self-driving cars out of California? If so Arizona really should send him a thank you card for hundreds of jobs that just relocated to our fair state.
Doubt if he'll ever will. As the saying goes rather die in freezing cold than die in a ball of fire in the desert of Arizona.Political clout still alive and kicking.
Pretty coincidental, but I wouldn't necessarily jump to conclude a potential political stunt. Imagine if he weren't making a bid deal out of it, what would people say then?
I would.

After a half-century of observing Calif. politicians, when one opens his/her mouth there is a high statistical probability that it IS a political stunt. If they are not termed-out of all possible offices, they are running for some office.
Agree with all above, but the fact that he was a passenger gives him a certain amount of credibility that he would not otherwise have.
I posted this as a response futher down the thread, but it may be important to bring it to the top.

To Clarify:

The ac was on FMS Bridge Visual, which is an RNAV visual approach. The stepdowns and waypoints are coded into the FMS. The flightpath intercepts the extended centerline at 4.4nm, the final 4.4nm is a visual approach lined up with the runway extended centerline.

This procedure differs from the Quiet Bridge visual. which is not aligned with runway centerline, the flightpath offset from threshold.

The procedure is also the SOIA procedure, to allow simulataneous parallel runway operations to closely spaced runways.
Simultaneous Offset Instrument Approach (SOIA)

Operational words here are RNAV and Instrument Approach.
I'm trying to understand how this could have happened, since it seems to me as though about four redundant elements should have made the mistake visible long before a pilot on the ground elsewhere would have seen it with his Mk. I eyeball. Mind you, I fly a simulator and that but poorly, so this is a newb learning question.

My local airport, STL, maintains a special precision landing system to facilitate simultaneous approaches on a pair of close parallel runways. This system was billed as identical to one at SFO, which system I believe you are implying is part of this hybrid RNAV/visual approach? How common is this sort of equipment and how different is it from standard ILS equipment? (Or in other words, is this the sort of thing an experienced pilot might have trouble with if they didn't use it often and got rusty, or is the difference primarily on the transmitter end?)

Looking into FMS Bridge I can't find it, but there are a few references to it on other boards, as a special approach that certain airlines with a large number of arrivals from the east use. This sounds to me as though it's something of a dreaded "local procedure." Is it possible the Air Canada crew was unfamiliar with the FMS procedure and didn't program their flight management system correctly, thinking this was the Quiet Bridge approach?

Is there a reason why you wouldn't tune your ILS? While not an actual pilot I've worked other safety related jobs (hanging very heavy things temporarily above unsuspecting people, for instance) and a good rule of thumb is that you ALWAYS double check everything. (We all double check everything for everyone as best as we are able. And carefully and systematically check it again when we're done.) Time is, of course, an issue. But at least on a simulator I've never found it overwhelmingly difficult to dial in a few frequencies to see the ILS and make sure I'm heading for the right spot. Just makes the approach more comfortable for me, in fact. This seems doubly true for night flying.

Sorry in advance for the silly questions. I'm just learning. And this one . . . mystifies me a bit.
FMS Bridge visual is a special instrument approach. It requires that the airline as well as the crew be approved to use it.

That is why you cannot find it.

The crew specifically asked for FMS Bridge visual, not Quiet Bridge visual, nor visual approach.

Given that FMS Bridge visual is RNAV visual, and unlike QUiet Bridge is aligned with the runway, you could have the ILS tuned, but still RNAV and ILS....

There are systems that should have alarmed to the alignement, ASDEX/ASSC and SMES. Now it will be interesting to see why these systems which are relied on for these close parallels, did not alarm.
ASSC is the new version of ASDEX and is first deployed at SFO last October.

This will get interesting.
bbabis 6
When you get that feeling that sometin' ain't right, it usually isn't.
First, it's always easy to Monday morning quarterback, but the dialogue is probably good. Some totally asinine, and some really well thought out inputs. The real blessing is that no one got hurt. For me, it's extremely difficult to imagine an experienced "crew" could get so close. Their landing lites on(pretty significant), numerous A/C on the taxiway with flashing lights, and not displaying the appropriate lighting you expect when confirming the landing environment of the runway you've been cleared. It seems that with two sets of eyes, one set would have seen a problem arising long before approaching the threshold of the runway. As a pilot, you can only surmise what may have happened, and thankfull for the outcome. I'm sure the investigation will render some answers. In the meantime, a real wake up.
Guess SFO will need to borrow some LSOs and Meatballs from the Navy...
What part of BLUE taxiway lights vs. WHITE runway lights did the crew not comprehend?
If i saw correctly in photos and videos, sfo taxiway c does not have blue edge lights but rather blue reflectors. We have some like that here in yyz. All the pilots should only see is the green taxiway centerline lights
That's true also. Either way TWYs will ALWAYS have GREEN center line lights, no matter what. A runway does NOT have green or blue lights anywhere! They usually have white side lights or if it is an instrument runway (ILS Cat 1-3) especially overseas, then a WHITE center line. Always white, never green or blue. It's called ICAO..............
Actually, lead off centerline lights alternate green and yellow, starting on the runway centerline and continuing with one yellow past the mandatory hold position marking. And while I too find it difficult to comprehend how the crew mistook the two for the rwy, none of us were in that cockpit.
Here's what I don't get - it was a visual approach on a clear night, right? I'm not an IFR pilot and open to correction but doesn't that mean that the pilot(s) are looking ahead at the runway to land the plane? Aren't the planes on the taxiway lit up? So, how do you not see them right in front of you?
The ac was on FMS Bridge Visual, which is an RNAV visual approach. The stepdowns and waypoints are coded into the FMS. The flightpath intercepts the extended centerline at 4.4nm, the final 4.4nm is a visual approach lined up with the runway extended centerline.

This procedure differs from the Quiet Bridge visual. which is not aligned with runway centerline, the flightpath offset from threshold.
Commercial pilots rarely fly by visual flight rules. Usually they do so only at airports without ILS systems available. The pilots fly the approach down to about 1000 above on the autopilot slaved the ILS. At 1000, above they are I would say about a mile or two from the runway. At that point the F/P takes manual control but still uses the instruments to fly with. The NF/P is the one who monitors the approach and looks out the windscreen.

If the ILS was working and selected for the approach I cannot understand how they ended up aligned with the taxi way.
That seems a little confused to me.

Flying VFR vs IFR is a very different question from flying instrument versus visual approaches. It's true that airlines are under IFR all the time, not VFR. But it's not true that they "always" fly instrument approaches.

When weather is nice, clear VMC, controllers *often* give IFR aircraft visual approaches because these approaches can expedite traffic greatly. These are still, technically, conducted under IFR, but they're much more like what you'd see as a VFR pilot.

In this case, it was a charted visual procedure -- there are two to that runway -- "quiet bridge" and "tipp toe" [sic]. A charted visual procedure is *visual* but is still under IFR. You're not necessarily on the ILS for a charted visual procedure. (There are also uncharted visual procedures, contact and the plain old "visual.")

You might dial the ILS in to double-check your alignment on final (and probably should!), but that still means that you have to fly the clearance you agreed to. If that clearance was a visual approach with particular checkpoints, then you have to do that, and *not* what the ILS says. (Or refuse the clearance, and request an ILS approach instead, and probably get penalty vectors as well while they clear the airspace for you.)
I disengage the AP at 410, and engage it at 410 on the next leg...
Don't know how this near-catastrophe (likely would have been worse than Tenerife) can be pinned to anyone other than inattentive cockpit crew. Been involved w/fair number of medical malpractice suits over the years. In nearly every meritorious case (many are not-simply plaintiff & loiyuh fishing for a jackpot) a doc's culpability resulted primarily from what is most charitably called 'casual complacency'. The skills & experience are surely there, but too often accompanied by an excessively prideful sense of 'I'm an ace, can do this in my sleep'. It's a character defect similarly evident in some professional airmen. Brings to mind a grim old proverb as to how 'Doctors bury their mistakes. Pilots are buried with their mistakes.' Recall some years back when an AA Captain flew his B-757 into a Colombian mountain during a familiar descent but on that fatal trip, below known MEA due to several pilot errors combined with misdirected systems reliance. A few months earlier he'd written an aggressively egomaniacal letter to Wall St Journal in response to a piece there suggesting that aircraft systems were making traditional pilot skills less relevant. How dare they! NOTHING would/could ever replace his finely honed experience... (Please, no outcries from ALPA types-I hold no brief either way, simply trying to illustrate a point.) Anyway, thank God's common grace those two in SFO didn't create a fiery blue light special...
Good point. There are some Captains like that around! I used to fly with some and they could do no wrong until........they did or had one beer too many....I could go on.
Could it be that the white taxi lights of the four aircraft heading SE on Taxiway C resembled the ALSF-2 lamps for 28R? I presume SFO 28R ALSF-2 were fully functional at the time of the incident. Maybe someone could set up the scenario in a flight simulator, with the relevant aircraft types lined up on the taxiway, and show us the night-time appearance of the taxi lights as seen by an aircraft on final, lined up on the taxiway? Maybe the placement of 'runway closed' indicators, (white lamps on a red X, fitted to a generator trailer) several hundred feet off the East and West ends of Taxiway C might prevent a recurrence? I know I know, Taxiway C is not a runway, so a 'runway closed' sign is inappropriate...
A fascinating insight into the contributing causes to the error. Why not explore your idea on how better to identify taxiways in a manner so the proposed error of mistaking taxi lights for runway lights might not ever happen again. I think you are on to something. Thank you for sharing.

Looking at the graphic in the news report. What is the baseline for the altitudes presented? For example, the 81 feet. Is this height above threshold, actual altitude, or perhaps another datum. Thank you.
back in the day of GCA approaches, a human controller monitored and controlled the approach, and we seldom heard of such a departure from competent piloting as was evidenced by Air Canada. Hard for me to imagine this horrendous approach being other than pilots not paying attention. THis will be a wake up call for only a short time, so for longer lasting results, the FAA may consider mandatory uses of ils systems on even visual , clear day or clean night approaches. THe system is on the plane, so use it and be safe or be safer.
bbabis 1
Tuning and use of the ILS for guidance is mandatory. Coupling to it is optional. PF and PM obviously didn't give it a glance.
Let's get ALL THE FACTS... So much data out there. Very strange event. NTSB needs to do its job. MTGRAHAM 🌞
Jeraboam 2
Where did the numbers come from for this article? FlightAware's log for this flight shows that AC759 was at 335 metres (about 1000+ feet), descending at 88 metres per minute at 11:54:32. At the time shown in the animation, 11:56:07, an interval of 1 minute 35 seconds, this seems to translate into a height of 203 metres (about 600+ feet). The animation shows 106 FEET of separation. 1 minute 40 seconds later it had attained a height of 884 metres. Still a tragedy almost occurring but significantly different numbers between media and flight tracking details. I would appreciate a more experienced reader's interpretation of my figures.
FlightAware provided Mercury news with new high resolution data. Max Trescott talks about it in his podcast General Aviation News the story begins at about 6:55 and the details about the updated numbers are about at the 8min. mark.
Jeraboam 1
Thanks Ruger; a very interesting summary of the event. The commentator expanded on his news report but with the same numbers; I still wonder why there appears to be such a discrepancy between this report and FlightAware's data.
There isn't a discrepancy. The plane wasn't descending at a constant rate. The descend rates are instantaneous values quoted at particular moments in time. So a slight downward acceleration would explain it being lower altitude than you'd get for a constant downward descend rate. FlightAware probably didn't calculate the closest point -- as indicated by Ruger9X19, they have high resolution data that show the actual measured altitudes at pretty close intervals in time.
From the newly released pictures looks like the math was prety close to spot on. Very close.
How long does it take the engines take to spool up and begin to create thrust after the throttles are moved? I've heard 10 sec. When told to go around, the pilot said "In the go around", Had he already pushed the throttles up 5 sec. before the call?
Boston's Logan airport has addressed a similar configuration of a parallel taxiway very close to the runway. The word "TAXI" is painted in huge yellow letters at the taxiway threshold.
That (surface painted signs) has been done at MANY US airports, not just BOS. LAS also them on the west-side and there's ALWAYS a reason for having them!
I'm not familiar with those other airports. I never thought it was a big deal, but now it's painfully obvious. Between the approach light array and runway lights on 28R, it's literally hard to believe that two pilots could both have been that out to lunch. Boggles the mind. Well, there is another solution besides the pilots getting brain transplants. Instead of the painted word "TAXI" it could read "NOT HERE, YOU IDIOT!"
If the Air Canada pilots cannot visually make out that they are not heading for the runway, I really don't see how the tower people can make that out way over to the side of the runway. I have flown radio control planes and crashed my fair share of them. Most times it is hard to tell exactly what track my model planes were on that it took very long to locate my crashed models. Really, I feel the onus is on the pilots of a landing aircraft to land on the designated runway. If they land on an adjacent taxiway it is the pilot's fault solely.
The tower at sfo is offset to those runways. It wont be easy to tell untill too late unless they use the radar
Wait for the results but I hope they don't find that all airports need to spend millions more of taxpayers money to install equipment that will prevent pilots/air controllers from letting this happen again.
controller watching from new control tower - angle of observation changed?? could controller really see that
plane was not lined up with runway? looks like all on pilots.....In my ATC career there were several occasions where we "realigned" a plane on final... but nothing like this...
deafsea 2
Able to watch it in the dark? It would be hard to tell.
fokrab 1
Couldn't help but notice flight number of Air Canada flight -- 759. In July 1982 - Pan Am 759 out of MSY. Microburst on take off. Horrible tragedy. I was living in NO at the time.
Permanent indicators similar to the temporary "runway closed" indicators may be a solution (i.e. Large R for runway and T for taxiway). Incidents like this are not common, therefore I am not sure whether any fix is warranted.
kzierhut 1
All right, I just gotta add...
The data here shows a plane descending and, 7 seconds later, it shows it climbing at 3000 ft/min.
Is that reasonable?
It is, it's a get out of this situation scenario...
Absolutely! It's called a GO-AROUND and there's ALWAYS a reason for those......
Very often because there's another aircraft ON the runway.
A passengers perspective....

Weighing in... a long time ago I was a passenger on a United flight heading out of SFO. Sitting port-side window, 4-5 rows aft of the trailing edge of the wing.

Captain made one of those "flight attendants hurry and sit down because we're doing an expedited take off", announcements.

I remember the engines really ramping up to speed even as we were turning to align with the runway, and off we went. We were on runway 100.

As we started pickup up speed I noticed a commercial jet inbound to the crossing runway 19. The jet was close, and from my seat vantage point was nearly perfectly lined up with the port wingtip. The problem I noticed was that the relative bearing to the crossing aircraft did not change! In the Navy we refer to an acronym called CBDR (constant bearing decreasing range) a Navy ship driver, a CBDR situation means you need to DO SOMETHING, anything (per rules of the road), to avoid collision.

Long story short, I watched this contact headed straight for us. Range closing and relative bearing unchanged. Nothing I could do but watch. Our aircraft went airborne and I watched the other jet cross directly underneath us. I was stunned (and supremely pissed).

Wrote the FAA; detailed everything, time, date, flight no., runway, etc. They actually wrote me back, saying they investigated, and there was never a risk of collision. Idiots.
How long does it take for an A320 to respond once TOGA is initiated? Had the crew already initiated it before the ATC's direction? Before the pilot called "he's on the taxiway"?
ARWeiler 1
Can anyone confirm: was 28L closed for repairs at the time of this incident? Certainly not an excuse for what happened...
Yes, from what I've read 28L was closed and approach lights were off. 28R was light up complete with approach lights and yet he mistook the lights of the aircraft on the taxiway as runway lights. Fatigue and confirmation bias is a bitch.
The captain thought he was lined up with the runway because of his comment "I can see lights on the runway". The controller responds, "Air Canada 759, confirmed. You are cleared to land on runway 2-8 Right. There is no one on 2-8 Right but you." For me, an armchair investigator, this seals the fate of the coming mishap. The pilot see lights on the runway, while he is actually looking and heading for Taxiway C. Still approaching Taxiway C, the tower confirms "and on Runway 2-8 right". No one, including the pilot and controller, knows that the flight isn't where it is supposed to be until an unknown pilot asks "where's this guy going?" Someone is now noticing something isn't quite right, a second or two late, "He's on the taxiway!" Almost 20 seconds pass until the flight receives the controllers to go around.
kzierhut 1
Since the Asiana accident a few years ago at SFO, all of the training scenarios I have had include entering a "visual approach path" into the FMS even for a daytime visual approach. That is possible in most of the FMS installed today. It provides lateral and vertical guidance to a runway. That would have help a LOT here. Even if it was an older FMS or a Garmin with only lateral guidance, such a visual path would have clearly shown these pilots they were not lined up.
even if the localizer was not operational, the crew could have programmed the approach in the FMC to guide them along the way. What about the taxi lights of the aircrafts taxing on C? That should have raised a red flag. Fortunately a major mishap was averted.
Is there ANYTHIG in this country that doesn't turn political?😩
Our FMS can create a visual to any runway, giving an extended centerline and 3 degree "glidepath." Is this not a common FMS feature and is no one using this as a back-up?
On most airlines, when you're on a visual, you must also have an appropriate instrument approach dialed in, as backup and cross check.

Have to imagine/hope that Air Canada has this policy.
Taxi lights are blue, runway lights are white... on an approche you are able to see the lights, white or blue, depending of visibility at the time, I haven't seen the weather report how it was... Let see the NTSB and maybe the FAA do what they do best...
What they do best? Nothing!
kzierhut 1
I agree with Jera. I saw that 1000+ feet plus in the flightaware plot a few days ago. is this a case of ADS-B that has 10 foot resolution if you can get the data. Still the VS implied by all of this seems impossibly high.
Do the SFO runways 28L and 28R not have any Omni-directional approach light system (ODALS)?
If affirmative, I doubt that such incident could ever happen if this light system would have been 'ON'. I'm just a color blind ex-glider driver.!
This should not happen to an experienced flight crew especially with the Nav aids and the sophistication of todays cockpit instrumentation. This leads me to ask this question. Is this the same runway that the Asiana airliner 777 crashed on and if so is the ILS System still inoperative?
Air Canada 759 was landing on 28R. Asiana 214 was landing on the parallel runway 28L. The approach plates indicate that the runways have separate localizers.
I am not a pilot, but an aviation geek. If I were God (or head of the FAA, whichever comes first), I wouldn't want to have two visual approach names in which two of the three words were the same. Doesn't necessarily apply to this situation, but a general thought about one way to prevent potential confusion.
I am a Canadian and fly Air Canada fairly often. I hope this crew will not fly when I am aboard on future flights. They probably won't be fired but should at least be demoted and retrained. I have a feeling that ACA will try to blame ATC or the airport lighting or any other excuse but the fact that the crew screwed up. So far I have seen nothing from ACA in our papers or in other news.
I hope you're aware that there are way more screw-ups by crews and ATC that never comes to light...
I uust read with intrest about the event at sfo, my heads spinning. Pilot error for sure in my opinion but so glad they weren't an OLD "727", didn't they drop quite a few feet before engines ascended them to higher altitude??
bbabis 1
Questions and suggestions here are bouncing all over possible system and procedure failures. Outside of full auto-land, no systems or procedure would have prevented this. The pilot simply lined up with the taxiway and not the runway. As if ATISes are not already too long, possibly an ATIS caution to not mistake the parallel taxiway to the left of the runway for the runway. The bottom line is that nothing can be made fool-proof because there will always be a better fool.
It's BS with these ATIS now, long and irrelevant!!!
air canada is pretty silent on the matter.... #crickets
Who knows what was going on in that cockpit, and in the minds of that flight crew. But, it seems there was a time-line intersection of two minds not focused on their duties at the same time. Not a time to be "zoned out" or focused on any other aspects of life.

One problem is with flight training. Seems too many pilots out there are the equivalent of what we once referred to in the military as "90-day wonders"... officers who were trained in little more than how to return a salute. Today's pilots need to learn to fly, and fly well, then learn to operate the computers to their full operational advantage... while continuing to hone their abilities to fly.

Much of being a good pilot is maintaining focus and spacial awareness. If these pilots were fatigued, then perhaps they did not take the opportunity to rest... opportunities required by regulation.

Don't blame ATC... and don't recommend more airport systems to prevent a repeat. Based only on current info available, this was just two pilots not flying a plane... with many lives at stake.
I'm not a pilot but isn't there any electronics that the control tower or pilot sees that they are not on the correct landing glide path?
bbabis 2
The problem here was lateral. Thank God the vertical path was corrected before tragedy struck. Regardless of how this pilot was descending, he was not alined left/right with the runway. There are multiple ways that this pilot could have verified his lateral alignment but he failed to do so. What needs to be determined is how he failed so as to prevent future occurrences.
Yes there is. That system is also used in low vis
the aircraft was conducting a "visual approach" - Which is exactly what it sounds like. A very common clearance from ATC.
I think Helen may have been suggesting some airport infrastructure that can tell when a plane is off course. That would be independent of whether the approach is visual or not.
Has Air Canada responded and announced any disciplinary action toward the pilot. This is an unbelievable event ... the more I read the more convinced I am that the pilot/co-pilot were distracted and disconnected from their task.
Does a robber get arrested and sentenced in the same hour???
glang3 -1
How are "the regulators" going to "fix" this problem? Say, "Ok. No more flying at night."? I would say this: Put that same crew in the simulator and make them fly that same approach 100 times. Then, after saying 100 Hail Mary's, send them back to their job with the promise that it will never happen again. Screw all of this letting them "hang". If it was intentional, that's one thing. Certain mental attitudes we cannot deal with in aviation; I think we can all agree on that. But, we all make mistakes because we are all human. Plain and simple.
Is there any way this is some kind of a technical problem with the aircraft or ATC? The visual conditions make the assumption of human error almost too easy.
KW10001 -6
The incompetence here beggars belief. If you look at the overhead depiction of what happened, it looks like they stopped descending for several seconds as they approached PAL115. Then, they continue to descend once flying directly over it and only begin to climb once they come within 3 seconds of flying into UAL863. IMO, both of these pilots should lose their licenses. A mistake like this, in clear conditions no less, is inexcusable.
FAA Surface Movement Event Service location data to determine exactly where the plane was at 11:56:07 p.m. on July 7

That's at midnight! After the go around the jet landed at 0017am pdt

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Fred J. 3
Yes, Mr. Turnbull stated right out of the gate that he is not a pilot and he has a good question - without even entering in any other issue regarding where you are lined up to - if you fly a hundred feet over a Dreamliner (not exactly a Cessna 172), with 3 more airplanes in front of you, on a clear night, when you should be flying over the runway threshold, I guess you definitely should go around without needing ATC to tell you so.... And if none of the two pilots onboard saw where they were heading, even when they were literally on top a Boeing 787... what the hell where both of them doing?

So I don't see how not being a pilot make him unable to pose a question. More civility and cordiality. That's what we need in the world people...
Let us pull the key phrases from these two comments, "I'm no pilot" and "Again, I'm no pilot".

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Airplanes could be waiting for takeoff on runways that others are approaching to land on.
Well, sir, you are definitely a pompous a$$. Why does his not being a pilot not entitle him to ask a question?
Who cares if ANYONE commenting here has flying experience or not...his points were very valid (just the opposite of yours!)
What the heck happened here? Had they not caught their mistake, it would've cost the lives of over 400 people from that plane and the other four airliners! What I don't understand is, how do you pull a Harrison Ford and almost land on a taxiway? At night, let alone, where there is proper lighting to guide you and to let you know where you are! Was the glideslope not working, like the crash in Guam with Korean Air Flight 801? This is such a horrible rookie mistake! I'm not even a pilot but I flight simulate and I've had planes on taxiways to my right and still been able to land on the runway! I hope this never happens again, REGARDLESS of what airline!
I feel like the key in this response above is, "I'm not even a pilot but I flight simulate".
Say ... you don't happen to have a Lake Amphib, do you?
Not enough CAPS in his post, nor comments about LEGIT PILOTS!
I guess. Just shooting around in the dark. ;-}
Plus Mr Bowland's profile existed long before Mr Peter Wilbur Hartmann Sanchez Esq was banned. But I had the same thought.
What expertise do you have, Andy, to respond here?

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Meanwhile, in the comments section of the mercurynews article:

Centurion • 2 hours ago

It is rumored that Air Canada is involved in the covert CHEMTRAIL program which has been spraying Americans with highly toxic chemicals including radioactive Barium and Strontium.

Could it be that the two morons flying this aircraft suffered from the toxic effects from the CHEMTRAILS that they themselves might have been spraying and inhaling ?

It's quite peculiar, however, that the website, the FAA, or any other entity for that matter, will never, ever mention the word "CHEMTRAILS" at any time whatsoever.

All on the government payroll !

We can assume that this person visits FlightAware. Let us PRAY this is just a joke/troll.
As a Squawk commenter, can I get on some of that payroll?
Wow! This thread is really "trending".
Amazing that the tower, first officer or pilot didn't notice they were heading towards a taxiway not a runway!
When does the First Officer become a Pilot?
When he becomes "Pilot Flying" - but apparently not the case here. First officer should also be able to back up the pilot flying with hints. such as "You're well to the right of course" or "Looks like all the lights on 28 Left are off" or "Is that an aircraft on the runway?" or "Go around!" etc.
Or, "Where the hell are you going"?
What a bunch of retards downvoting!!!
Read the statement that I commented to, and figure out my response...
alexa320 my comment above. You might learn something!
Like I said Jackwad, read my comment again, try to apply some comprehension skill.
If you still can't get it, maybe I'll break it down in a subsequent reply...
When he's part of the flight deck crew and ESPECIALLY when he's the pilot flying! You do know that all airline FOs are certificated to the SAME level as a PIC? It says so on their license/type ratings......they just sit in a different seat.
glad to educate those that don't know.............
That was exactly his point. The original poster made an erroneous distinction between "first officer" and "pilot." They're both pilots.

That's why THRUSTT asked the question he did. It was snark directed at the original poster.

I think you may have missed that.
Wingrat 0
I can understand why flying the iLS,is such a ""task" at a crowded airport. The runway markings ought to be obvious as well as the taxiways. This was an incredibly lucky event. Pilots were watching for this kind of issue, found it and reacted.ATC reacted immediately. Maybe that new kind of paint on those lined up for takeoff might have helped? None the less better markings,like this is the runway, land on it. Just thinking of the disaster brings chill up the spine. Better briefing,night training. Something has got to change this a creeping slow motion problem not going away without proper investigation and appropriate changes put in place.
They both also have glideslopes. Localizer + glideslope = ILS.
87% of all aircraft accidents are caused by CREW ERROR. Flight crews "Get Your Head Out".
deafsea -2
Did BOTH pilots use their mobiles for texting at that moment???
They were, how'd you find out???

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Yes, but...

Takeoff and landing are the most critical phases of the flight, so you can't afford not to be on your A game. How do you not notice the lack of threshold lighting, runway markings, or the other aircraft taxiing towards you?
Amen to that.
bbabis 3
Fatigue & Fixation come to mind but, as I'm sure even this crew would admit, there really is no excuse.
Aren't the approach lights supposed to be on at night as well? Not the rabbits but at least the ALS or whatever system they have there? Do they not have REIL at SFO?
bbabis 6
Your high and mighty attitude needs top come down a few notches. All pilots and aviation enthusiasts for that matter deserve the same respect. Also, FYI, tuning the ILS would not have just helped, its the law.
The duty of a pilot is to be fit for duty. if he or she is unable to fly safely due to fatigue hand off the duties. The 172 comment is crap. The difference is a 172 pilot will most likely only kill a hand full of people. This near miss could have killed hundreds. Just a little perspective.
And we've all seen it - Visual approaches assigned and the LOC turned off. At least most runways have an RNAV that can serve as a good back-up.
So then accepting fatigued flying is okay and makes this acceptable? Really? Stupid post!
Most incidents in aviation are due to a combination of events (not one single one). One of the realities of human endeavour is that humans are involved. Humans, being humans, get tired. This is not something to treat as a crime, but as something that is part of the many things that have to be considered when trying to make aviation safer (human factors). Pilot fatigue is a big topic being discussed at the moment. Transport Canada just proposed (or passed, not sure where it is at) new rules governing how many hours crew can work to try to address the issue of fatigue. The pilots representatives felt the rules did not go far enough to give pilots enough time to rest while some airlines said it would harm them financially by requiring significantly more crew to cover their schedules. So there is always a back and forth on that.

So yes, like cab drivers, doctors in hospitals, air traffic controllers, truck drivers and others who have long work days, we would prefer that everyone be bright-eyed and well rested when working, but the real world does push back at that, so we must keep all that in mind when looking to blame the pilot, who has to work in all these realities.
Not sure what your point was supposed to be. But don't want somebody this tired sitting up front in an airplane that I'm on, sharing the skies with me, or even flying over my house. If they can't tell by looking that this was not a runway (both of them) what else would they miss? How would they deal with a more demanding situation or an emergency? Take steps to resolve the problem, not just say- Hey, cab drivers, doctors, controllers, truck drivers do it. Your willingness to quantify it as the norm just feeds the problem. And as far as blame, unltimately, it does come down to the two humans in the cockpit. Hundreds of people came very close to dying in S.F that night. Glad somebody on the taxiway had their head on right and spoke up.
I guess I did not make my point. My point is that this is a problem that everyone faces. Understanding the problem is not an excuse but is the first step in finding a real solution. Demonizing the pilots does not solve the issue. Admitting that this is a widespread problem and this is just one more obvious example it makes it easier to discuss openly the extent of it and how to solve it. Firing these two pilots and saying the problem is solved is not going to solve the problem. Realizing that fatigue is something that all pilots face and all pilots have flown fatigued removes the stigma and makes it possible to get to the root of the real problem and thus enables real solutions to be sought.
Ultimately, it still comes down to the two heads bobbing around in the cockpit. As it did that night. Luckily someone else was on the ball and spoke up. That night, that event.
Root causes and widespread problems are another discussion. I'll watch for your congressional hearing on the topic to resolve the issue.
Don't know much about football, and yes, used to fly a C172 a zillion years ago. Apart from that I don't know too much except a dozen Boeing and one Airbus type rating with 10,000+ hours on 4 continents! But what would I know, eh?

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btweston 2
What do you think you sound like?
Visual Approaches to major airports with multiple runways - This is a receipt for disaster...
...and no taxiway should ever be parallel to a runway.
Most of them ARE parallel so what now?
Yes, we sure have to live with that. Maybe a different kind of lighting could do the trick, such as the big crosses on closed runways.
Where else would you put them?
Harrison Ford the pilot?
Maybe runways at risk need naval carrier style video that feeds to the tower and also back it up with software that quickly flags aircraft going out of bounds. Heck, you can even feed it live to flightaware. If enough people flag it the tower gets an alert. I'd say it's not hard to do internet stuff and keep an eye on a live video box floating on the side. Again, on-screen active graphics tells you what to look for.

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744pnf 6
It is difficult at an oblique angle to see the flight path of aircraft, especially at night, from where the control tower is located.
deafsea -9
Wonder, did the pilots and one of the controllers were texting together?

UNITED pilot was an HERO to save the lives!!!

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Large airports like this usually have radar in the tower cab. They can tell if you are lined up. Even if not, the aircraft talks to approach control until accepting the visual but usually doesnt switch to tower until 5 miles out (large airports).
Have you ever seen a tower radar display? It's NOT that easy to see that an aircraft is lined up on a taxiway especially a close parallel like at SFO. The only way to tell for sure would be running a 10-mile range or less which is too low to see all your traffic. Maybe someone at SFO or another large airport can correct me if I'm wrong.

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