A disaster was averted at San Francisco International Airport last week when two aircraft aborted their landings after spotting a Southwest Airlines plane taxiing across the runways where the two incoming planes had been cleared to touch down.
An inbound United Airlines flight was just a few hundred feet above the runway on May 19 when pilots saw the Southwest plane and decided to ditch the landing and pull back into the sky.
Seconds later, the crew of an Alaskan Airlines plane that was also scheduled to land saw the plane crossing into a parallel runway. Its pilots followed suit and abandoned their landing.
“You shouldn’t be on the runway,” the air traffic controller scolded the crew of the Southwest jet, according to audio obtained by LiveATC.com.
When a pilot tried to offer an explanation, he was quickly cut off.
“I don’t need an argument,” the air traffic controller said sternly.
Both planes circled the airport before eventually landing safely.
The Federal Aviation Administration referred to the incident as a “runway incursion.”
“The FAA looked into the events and determined the appropriate steps were taken to ensure safe operations,” the agency said.
The National Transit Safety Board confirmed it is not investigating the incident, which was first reported by the San Francisco Chronicle.
Southwest spokesperson Chris Perry, told the Chronicle that
Aborted landings are “fairly routine,” Southwest spokesperson Chris Pery told the paper. “If there was anything amiss on this one, we’ll work with the FAA on next steps.”
Last week’s near-miss comes as a number of similar close calls in recent years are being investigated by transportation safety officials.
The San Francisco airport was the scene of a frightening near-disaster in 2017, when pilots of an Air Canada jet mistook a taxiway for their runway and nearly landed on top of four other planes waiting to take off. The plane missed the others by just 14 feet.
The FAA announced this week it is investing $100 million in improvements at 12 airports — not including San Francisco — to reduce the number of so-called “runway incursions.”
With Post wires