The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is investigating a near-miss by an Air Canada plane attempting to land at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) Friday in what one aviation expert is saying could have been “the greatest aviation disaster in history.”
The San Jose Mercury-News reports that the Air Canada plane nearly landed on Taxiway C shortly before midnight, where four other airplanes full of passengers and fuel were waiting to take off.
“If it is true, what happened probably came close to the greatest aviation disaster in history,” retired United Airlines Capt. Ross Aimer, CEO of Aero Consulting Experts, told the Mercury-News. “If you could imagine an Airbus colliding with four passenger aircraft wide bodies, full of fuel and passengers, then you can imagine how horrific this could have been.”
In an interview with Reuters, Aimer compared it to the 1977 collision of two B747 planes in Tenerife.
According to conversation audio posted on the Live ATC website and reported by The Guardian, the Air Canada pilot asked if he was clear to land, since he could see other lights on the runway. He was then told there are no other planes on the runway. Another voice said, “Where’s this guy going? He’s on the taxiway,” before the pilot was instructed to pull up, circle around and approach the landing again. The Air Canada flight landed safely 15 minutes later.
The FAA described the incident as “very rare,” and is now investigating the incident. Air Canada also told The Guardian that it was conducting an investigation.