American officials investigating after Air Canada flight lands without approval

A view out towards SFO’s runways. Credit Mike Killian

The recording from Sunday night indicates Air Canada 781 was told six times in less than a minute to "go around", or interrupt its landing procedure.

An Air Canada flight landed at San Francisco airport Sunday after it had been told not to by traffic controllers who were uncertain the runway was fully clear.

In an audio recording, you can hear air traffic control tell the pilots to "go around" five times within 30 seconds, but the pilots never acknowledged the order. After failing to get a response to six calls, an airport supervisor activated a red light gun to alert the crew, which also failed to postpone the landing.

As for this past weekend's incident, the FAA is now investigating.

"Upon landing the crew was informed the tower had attempted unsuccessfully to contact the aircraft, however, the message was not received by the crew", airline spokesperson Peter Fitzpatrick says. The Air Canada crew blames a radio problem, but that doesn't explain why they ignored (or just didn't see) the flashing lights telling them to go-around.

Instead, the flight landed, as previously authorised, on runway 28R at 9:26 p.m. PDT (0626 GMT).

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A radar replay showed the preceding arrival was in fact clear of the runway when Air Canada landed, he added.

In July, at the same San Francisco International Airport, an Air Canada jet almost landed on a taxiway where other planes were waiting to deport. According to the FAA, four full planes were lined up and awaiting approval to take off. Federal transportation investigators have been reviewing a probable cause for why it occurred.

Air traffic control helped stem the collision by ordering the pilot to abort the landing and circle the airport. "He's on the taxiway!"

Controller: Air Canada 781 - tower.

It follows an incident on July 7 at SFO when an Air Canada jet nearly struck planes on the ground after it lined up wrongly to land.

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