Currently released data and photos show how shockingly low an Air Canada jet was when it pulled up to avoid crashing into planes waiting on a San Francisco International Airport taxiway last month.According to National Transportation Safety Board information released last week that the Air Canada pilots mistook the taxiway for the runway next to it and flew their jet to just 59 feet above the ground before pulling up to attempt another landing. That's roughly taller than the four planes that were on the taxiway when the incident occurred late at night on July 7.
Air traffic controllers were alerted by the pilots in a United Airlines plane about the off-course jet while the crew of a Philippine Airlines jet behind it switched on their plane's landing lights in an apparent last-ditch danger signal to Air Canada.NTSB investigators said they have not determined probable cause for the incident that came within a few feet of becoming one of the worst disasters in aviation history.
John Cox, a safety consultant and retired airline pilot said that"It was close, much too close."The investigators said that as the Air Canada jet approached the taxiway just before midnight after a flight from Toronto, it was so far off course that it did not appear on a radar system used to prevent runway collisions.
Agency spokesman Ian Gregorsaidthat those systems were not designed to spot planes that are lined up to land on a taxiway which is a rare occurrence, especially for airline pilots. But the Federal Aviation Administration is working on modifications so they can.
The pilots told investigators "that they did not recall seeing aircraft on taxiway but that something did not look right...