SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF & AP) — Newly released photos show just how close an Air Canada jet came to crashing into other planes as it tried to land in San Francisco last month.
As the Air Canada jet streaked toward a taxiway at San Francisco International Airport, it was as low as 59 feet above ground — that’s barely taller than four planes — including a fully loaded United Airlines Boeing 787 — that were on that Taxiway C and waiting to take off.
Pilots in one of the planes alerted air traffic controllers about the off-course jet. Meanwhile, the crew of another plane switched on its landing lights in an apparent last-ditch danger signal.
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The report said the Air Canada flight — an Airbus A320 with 135 passengers and five crewmembers on board — was so far off course that there was a 12 second gap in which the air traffic controllers could not see it.
The Air Canada pilots were told to land on Runway 28R. The adjunct Runway 28L was closed to accommodate construction; its approach and runway lights were turned off and a 20.5-ft-wide lighted flashing X was placed at the threshold.
The construction was part of a project that started on February 21 and notices to airlines were issued to alert operators of its operational status.
Air traffic control audio captured what happened next:
Air Canada pilot: Tower Air Canada 759 I can see lights on the runway there. Can you confirm we’re clear to land?
Control tower: Air Canada 759 confirmed cleared to land on 28R. There is no one on 28R but you.
Air Canada pilot: Okay 759
Unknown: Where is this guy going? He’s on the taxiway!
Control tower: Yeah, I saw that guys.
The tower ordered the Air Canada pilot to abort the landing.
The Air Canada pilots pulled up, but not before the flight had descended to 59 feet off the ground. The tail of the 787 was and flew over the other planes just in time.
Federal officials released the photos and new details about the July 7 incident on Wednesday.