New Security Footage Shows Worst Aviation Disaster in History Narrowly Averted

On July 7 of last year Air Canada Flight 759 from Toronto to San Francisco was cleared to land on runway 28L. It lined up to land on taxiway C instead, which had four planes on it waiting for take off.

The NTSB released security camera footage of the Air Canada Airbus A320 about to touch down on the taxiway.

Watch the upper left hand corner of this video from terminal 2 security to see the plane pull up at the last moment.

The Air Canada jet flew over a United 787 and initiated an aborted landing and go around. United can be heard on air traffic control audio saying “Where’s this guy going? He’s on the taxiway.”

Air Canada descended to as low as 59 feet — just three above the height of a 787. Just after the United widebody was a Philippine Airlines Airbus A340. The captain of that aircraft turned on its landing lights to make itself visible to incoming aircraft.

This narrowly averted incident could have become the worst aviation disaster in history.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Gary, you should edit this post to guide readers to watch only the top-left corner of the video. The near-collision is not obvious in the video.

  2. Delete that comment! I missed your clear instructions! (Would be nice to have an edit feature for the comments…)

  3. Is he blind? If we could see from an even greater distance how could he not see he was landing on top of facing planes?

  4. There is plenty of blame to go around (be nice if SFO had all its junk working) but I dont see how these pilots should ever be allowed to to fly, or fly at night, again.

  5. “Worst Aviation Disaster in History” ??? Sorry, not even close. Try Tenerife on March 27, 1977.

  6. @James

    Gary is well aware of that incident and is saying this had the potential to be worse because of the number of aircraft lined up on the taxiway.

  7. @James I have even written about the Tenerife disaster. Here you had several planes lined up on the taxiway, the incident barely averted taking out multiple aircraft.

  8. A340 – 350-ish pax
    787 – 300-ish pax
    A320 – 180 pax

    The 340 and 787 were awaiting takeoff. That’s a lot of AvGas waiting to burn.

    That’s 870 souls, give or take.

    583 died at Tenerife.

    So, yeah, Air Canada at SFO had the potential to be the worst in history.

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