Skip to main content

Air Canada planes are pictured at Toronto Pearson International Airport on May 18, 2014.

Matthew Sherwood/The Globe and Mail

Investigators looking into what caused an apparent close call involving an Air Canada flight at San Francisco International Airport are expected to examine whether human error or controller procedures played a role in the incident, an aviation expert said Tuesday

The state of the aircraft's and controller's equipment, and the design of the air space will also be under review as officials try to determine how a flight from Toronto came to line up with a taxiway rather than the runway as it prepared to land, said Barry Wiszniowski, president of Aviation Safety Management Experts.

An Air Canada Airbus A320 was cleared to land on one of the runways at the San Francisco airport just before midnight on Friday when the pilot "inadvertently" lined up with the taxiway, which runs parallel to the runway, the U.S. Federal Aviation Authority said.

Story continues below advertisement

There were four aircraft lined up on the taxiway waiting for departure when the incident occurred, the FAA said in a statement. The Air Canada plane eventually made another approach and landed without incident, it said.

The FAA and Air Canada are investigating what happened.

"One of the questions that they may ask is were the pilots fatigued? ... Were they in their normal window of wakefulness?" Wiszniowski said. "There are a lot of questions that need to be asked."

Wiszniowski said the safety systems in place managed to prevent what could have been a serious incident, noting that at least one previous case in which a plane landed on a taxiway where there were other planes resulted in multiple fatalities.

Thirty-four people died in February 1991 when a USAir Boeing 737 landed on a taxiway at Los Angeles airport and collided with a commuter plane, causing a massive explosion. Sixty-seven passengers survived.

Air traffic management and equipment, as well as aircraft exterior lighting and visibility, were among the safety issues raised by the FAA in its report on that crash.

Recommendations made in the wake of such incidents have helped improve safety procedures, Wiszniowski said.

Story continues below advertisement

"The lessons learned from LAX — now at night, whenever an aircraft is on the runway, we turn our strobe lights on," he said. "When we cross a runway, even in the daytime, we turn our strobe lights on."

A similar report on Friday's incident will highlight areas for improvement, he said.

An exchange recorded by the website LiveATC.net provided some details on the incident involving the Air Canada flight.

In the clip, the Air Canada pilot is heard requesting permission to land and is given the go-ahead from the control tower before another pilot issues a warning.

"Where is this guy going? He's on the taxi lane," the second pilot says in the recording.

The controller then tells the Air Canada pilot to pull up and go around.

Story continues below advertisement

The aviation agency said it is now investigating the distance between the Air Canada aircraft and the jets lined up on the taxiway.

Air Canada said 135 passengers and five crew members were aboard its plane, but gave little other information, citing its own ongoing investigation.

Report an error
Comments

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • All comments will be reviewed by one or more moderators before being posted to the site. This should only take a few moments.
  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed. Commenters who repeatedly violate community guidelines may be suspended, causing them to temporarily lose their ability to engage with comments.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.
Cannabis pro newsletter