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WATCH: Harrowing NTSB Video of Airliner's Near-Disaster at SFO

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In the video above, the Air Canada jet approaching SFO can be seen as the moving bright white light near the top of the frame. At the 1:08 minute mark, the jet's landing lights sweep across the fuselage of an aircraft just beneath it, lined up to take off.

The National Transportation Safety Board has released a trove of documentation collected after an incident last July in which an Air Canada jet narrowly avoided landing on a San Francisco International Airport taxiway crowded with airliners waiting to take off.

The documents show that the jet's flight crew reported fatigue and confusion during their nearly catastrophic landing attempt and that a single air-traffic controller was attempting to manage arriving flights as well as ground traffic at SFO as the drama unfolded.

The docket made public Wednesday includes video recorded by a security camera on SFO's Terminal 2 that shows Air Canada Flight 759, an Airbus A320 completing a trip from Toronto, descending toward Runway 28R.


The video shows the plane descending toward a line of jetliners queued up on Taxiway C, next to Runway 28R, then pulling up abruptly after passing to within 100 feet of one of the other aircraft.

The docket also includes interviews with the the pilot and first officer of Flight 759 and statements from crewmembers of planes on the taxiway who watched as the Air Canada jet approached.

In initial meetings with safety investigators a week after the July 7, 2017, incident, Both Air Canada Capt. James Kisses and First Officer Matthew Dampier said they felt something was amiss during Flight 759's final approach to the runway.

The crewmen said the confusion grew in part out of uncertainty about the status of Runway 28L, one of the two closely spaced parallel runways commonly used for SFO arrivals.

The Flight 759 crew had been advised 28L would be closed for construction and that they were to land on 28R. But as they descended a few minutes before midnight, they weren't certain what to make of lights they could see on the ground

According to the NTSB report on his initial interview, Capt. Kisses, who was flying the airliner under manual control, "asked the first officer to confirm that the runway was clear and that no traffic was on their runway. ... The first officer queried the controller if the runway was clear, to which the controller stated that they were the only ones on it and cleared to land. As the flight continued he felt that 'things were not adding up' and that it 'did not look good.'"

In his initial interview, First Officer Dampier said he felt the single air-traffic controller on duty in the SFO tower had "glossed over" his question about the runway. Dampier told investigators as his jet neared the ground, he noticed a runway to the left.

"At one time, he looked to his left and saw a runway lit up," the NTSB interview report says. "He asked if that was runway 28L and had a horrible feeling in his stomach."

Google Earth view of Runways 28L and 28R at San Francisco International Airport. During a nighttime landing last July, an Air Canada flight crew confused a crowded taxiway at the top of this image with their assigned runway, 28R. (Google Earth)

Kisses and Dampier said they independently decided to abort the landing, with the first officer telling the pilot, "Go around! Go around!"

Dampier and Kisses both told safety investigators they didn't see aircraft on the ground before aborting the landing.

Subsequent analysis of the flight suggests that the Air Canada jet passed within 100 feet of one of the planes lined up for takeoff. Flight 759 landed without incident on its second attempt -- this time with its computer guidance system engaged.

Airliner crews on the ground gave statements to investigators that described watching the approaching Air Canada jet head toward the taxiway.

The first airliner in the departing queue was United Airlines Flight 1, headed for Singapore, commanded by Capt. Keith Freeberg.

Flight 1 had been awaiting clearance to depart for half an hour when the Air Canada plane approached the airport. After Freeberg saw the Airbus was "aiming at us" and not correcting course, he radioed the controller on duty, "Where's that guy going? He's on the taxiway."

Listen to the Exchange on SFO Air Traffic Control

Listen to the Exchange on SFO Air Traffic Control

Greg Sembower, first officer on another United flight in the taxiway lineup, wrote that "within one or two seconds of this transmission, all of us in our cockpit became fully aware that Air Canada was lost and headed our way. Our captain turned on all of our lights, to include the landing lights, taxi light, turnoff lights."

Freeberg's warning prompted the controller to order the jet to "go around" -- but apparently after the Air Canada crew had already begun to execute the maneuver.

"A few seconds later we saw Air Canada flying directly over our heads at an estimated 100-200 feet," Sembower wrote. "We could clearly hear the sound of their engines ... I strongly suspect that tower was alerted to the improper lineup the same way that we were, which is from the radio call which I believe was from UAL 1 about "where is this guy going?" I hate to think how this would have turned out without that critical radio heads-up."

In the aftermath of last July's near disaster, the Federal Aviation Administration announced new rules for flights landing in circumstances similar to those encountered by Air Canada Flight 759.

The Bay Area News Group's Matthias Gafni summarized the changes imposed last August:

Since the close call, the FAA no longer allows visual approaches for aircraft approaching SFO at night with an adjacent parallel runway closed, according to spokesman Ian Gregor. ... When these conditions prevail, our controllers (will) issue pilots Instrument Landing System approaches or satellite-based approaches, which help pilots line up for the correct runway."

The FAA also required that two controllers be on duty during SFO's late-night rush of departures and arrivals.

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