Air Canada’s near miss last year was almost ‘worst accident in history’

Aviation-safety officials say a close call last year highlights the need for faster reporting of dangerous incidents before evidence is lost. (AP/Jeff Chiu, File)
Updated 13 October 2018
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Air Canada’s near miss last year was almost ‘worst accident in history’

  • The report said the flight crew’s misidentification of the taxiway as the intended runway “resulted from the crewmembers’ lack of awareness of the parallel runway closure
  • The pilot of a United Airlines plane on the ground told the tower meanwhile that “Air Canada flew directly over us.”

WASHINGTON: A near miss involving an Air Canada plane which almost landed on a crowded taxiway instead of a runway at San Francisco airport last year could have been the “worst aviation accident in history,” according to an official report.
The Air Canada Airbus A320 carrying 140 people was cleared to land on Runway 28-Right at San Francisco International Airport shortly before midnight on July 7, 2017 — but the pilot inadvertently lined up for Taxiway C, where four planes were waiting to take off.
“Only a few feet of separation prevented this from possibly becoming the worst aviation accident in history,” said Bruce Landsberg, vice chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board while announcing the agency’s report issued Friday.
“The incident airplane descended to an altitude of 100 ft (30 meters) above ground level and overflew the first airplane on the taxiway,” the report said.
“The incident flight crew initiated a go-around, and the airplane reached a minimum altitude of about 60 ft and overflew the second airplane on the taxiway before starting to climb,” it added, noting none of the five flight crewmembers or 135 passengers aboard the Air Canada plane were injured.
The report said the flight crew’s misidentification of the taxiway as the intended runway “resulted from the crewmembers’ lack of awareness of the parallel runway closure due to their ineffective review of notice to airmen (NOTAM) information before the flight and during the approach briefing.”
Other contributing factors were “the flight crew’s failure to tune the instrument landing system frequency for backup lateral guidance, expectation bias, fatigue due to circadian disruption and length of continued wakefulness, and breakdowns in crew resource management.”
An audio recording of the radio exchanges between air traffic control and the pilot of Air Canada flight 759 was posted online shortly after the incident.
Just moments after receiving permission to land on the designated runway, the Air Canada pilot returned to the radio sensing that something was amiss.
“Uh, Tower, I just want to confirm — this is Air Canada 759 — we see some lights on the runway there, across the runway, can you confirm we’re clear to land?“
The tower responded: “Air Canada 759 confirmed clear to land Runway 28-Right. There is no one on 28-Right but you.”
“OK, Air Canada 759,” the pilot replied.
An unidentified man’s voice then broke in — presumably a pilot in one of the aircraft waiting to take off. “Where’s this guy going? He’s on the taxiway,” he said.
Air traffic control immediately told the Air Canada pilot not to land.
“Air Canada go around,” the tower said.
“In the go-around, Air Canada 759,” the pilot responded.
The pilot of a United Airlines plane on the ground told the tower meanwhile that “Air Canada flew directly over us.”
“Yeah, I saw that guys,” the tower replied.
elm/leo/ia/gle


Thousands rally in support of Hong Kong police

Updated 20 July 2019
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Thousands rally in support of Hong Kong police

  • Hong Kong has been rocked by more than a month of huge and largely peaceful protests
  • Demonstrators and rights groups have accused riot police of using excessive force, including tear gas and rubber bullets, and public anger against the force is boiling over

HONG KONG: Tens of thousands of people rallied in support of Hong Kong’s police and pro-Beijing leadership on Saturday, a vivid illustration of the polarization coursing through the city after weeks of anti-government demonstrations.
Hong Kong has been rocked by more than a month of huge and largely peaceful protests — as well as a series of separate violent confrontations with police — sparked by a proposed law that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China and other countries.
The bill has since been suspended, but that has done little to quell public anger which has evolved into a wider movement calling for democratic reforms, universal suffrage and a halt to sliding freedoms in the semi-autonomous financial hub.
Saturday’s rally was a moment for the establishment to muster their own supporters.
A predominantly older crowd was joined by families and younger residents, waving Chinese flags and holding banners supporting the police.
“Friends who used violence say they love Hong Kong too, but we absolutely cannot approve of their way of expressing themselves,” said Sunny Wong, 42, who works in insurance.
A 60-year-old woman surnamed Leung said protesters who stormed and vandalized the legislature earlier this month must be held responsible for their acts.
“I really dislike people using violence on others... it was so extreme,” Leung said.
Police estimated a turnout of 103,000 people at the peak of the rally, while local media cited organizers as saying 316,000 attended.
Hong Kong’s police are in the midst of a major reputational crisis.
With no political solution on the table from the city’s pro-Beijing leaders, the police have become enmeshed in a seemingly intractable cycle of clashes with protesters who have continued to hit the streets in huge numbers for six weeks.
Demonstrators and rights groups have accused riot police of using excessive force, including tear gas and rubber bullets, and public anger against the force is boiling over.
Police insist their crowd control responses have been proportionate and point to injured officers as proof that a hardcore minority of protesters mean them harm.
Some of the most violent clashes occurred last Sunday when riot police battled protesters hurling projectiles inside a luxury mall. Some 28 people were injured, including 10 officers.
There is growing frustration among the police force’s exhausted rank and file that neither the city’s leaders, nor Beijing, seem to have any idea how to end the crisis.
Chinese state media and powerful pro-Beijing groups threw their weight behind the pro-police rally.
Saturday’s edition of Hong Kong’s staunchly pro-Beijing newspaper Ta Kung Pao ran a front page encouraging readers to join with the headline: “Kick away the violence.”
It featured a drawing of a large foot kicking over a pro-democracy demonstrator.
Many of those at the rally held aloft large slogans printed on the spread of Wen Wei Po, another stridently pro-Beijing newspaper in the city.
A rally last month by police supporters saw ugly scenes, with many participants hurling insults and scuffling with younger democracy protesters as well as media covering the gathering.
While the pro-government protests have mustered decent crowds, they have paled in comparison with the huge pro-democracy marches that have regularly drawn hundreds of thousands of people.
Anti-government protesters are planning another large march Sunday afternoon and say they have no plan to back down until key demands are met.
Tensions were also raised after police on Saturday said they had discovered a homemade laboratory making high-powered explosives. A 27-year-old man was arrested and pro-independence materials were also discovered.
Under the 1997 handover deal with Britain, China promised to allow Hong Kong to keep key liberties such as its independent judiciary and freedom of speech.
But many say that 50-year deal is already being curtailed, citing the disappearance into mainland custody of dissident booksellers, the disqualification of prominent politicians and the jailing of pro-democracy protest leaders.
Authorities have also resisted calls for the city’s leader to be directly elected by the people.