SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Federal aviation officials announced Thursday they have changed night landing procedures at San Francisco International Airport following a near miss by an Air Canada flight that came within 59 feet of crashing into other jets on a taxiway.

Federal Aviation Administration Public Affairs Manager Ian Gregor said his agency will “no longer issue visual approaches to air crews approaching SFO at night when an adjacent parallel runway is closed.”

The pilots will be forced to use instrument landing system approaches or satellite-based approaches which help them line up for the correct runway.

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Additionally, the FAA is requiring two controllers to remain on position at San Francisco International working traffic until the late-night arrival rush is over.

Federal investigators have determined that Air Canada Flight 759 was so far off course on the night of July 7th that it dropped off the air traffic controller’s ground surveillance system radar during its final 12 seconds on approach.

The Air Canada plane flew as low as 59 feet off the ground — barely clearing the tail of a waiting 787 and three other jets on the taxiway.

On that night, Runway 28-Left was closed and darkened because of construction — part of a project that started on February 21 and notices to airlines were issued to alert operators of its operational status.

The flight crew told investigators that shifted their sight-line to the right, causing them to believe Taxiway C was their approved runway.

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 flight pulled up and landed safely on a second approach.

Comments (4)
  1. How does a pilot “see lights on a runway” yet continues with a landing anyway??