A new animation based on in-flight data provides a closer look at a near-disaster involving an Air Canada jet at San Francisco International Airport.
Last Friday, just before midnight, the Airbus A320 that was carrying 135 passengers nearly landed on a taxiway occupied by four other fully loaded planes awaiting permission to take off.
The new video obtained by NBC Bay Area shows just how close the pilot was to landing in the wrong area before an air traffic controller quickly redirected the plane to pull up and make another approach.
In the animation, Air Canada Flight 759 is shown approaching the airport and its altitude drops as it heads toward the SFO runway. It had been cleared to land on Runway 28R, which is the second strip from the right.
Instead, the plane begins to approach Taxiway C, the strip on the far right, where the other planes were lined up.
In an audio recording of conversations between air traffic control and pilots, the Air Canada pilot tells air traffic control he sees other lights on the runway before being told there are no other planes on 28R. When an air traffic controller realized the plane was headed for the taxiway, he prompts the plane to abort its landing attempt and try again.
The animation shows the pilot dropping to as low as 335 feet above the ground before sharply pulling back up. The altitude begins to rise and eventaully the jet circles back around and successfully lands on the correct runway.
A top California state official said Wednesday he was a passenger on the flight from Toronto. California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones was returning from a conference of insurance regulators.
"It was just really strange because clearly something was wrong, but they didn't really give us any information afterward," Jones said. "So to see that we almost landed on four planes full of passengers is a little disturbing."
Passengers were not told about the near-calamity after the plane landed safely, Jones said. Instead, he said the pilot told the passengers on board that there was more traffic than usual and everything was fine, he said.
But he said he knew something was wrong because as the plane descended, the engines revved, and then the plane climbed.
"I've never experienced something like that for as low we were," Jones said. "You could tell something wasn't right."
The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration are investigating the incident.