In the third landing-related incident in around six months at San Francisco International airport (SFO), on 9th January 2018, pilots of Aeromexico flight 668 lined up to land on the wrong runway.
Air traffic controllers (ATC) had cleared the Aeromexico flight - which had taken off from Mexico City - to land on San Francisco International's Runway 28 Right, an instruction that the pilot acknowledged. However, when the Boeing 737-800 was less than a mile away, controllers noticed it was lined up for the parallel Runway 28 Left, which was already occupied by a Virgin America Airbus A320 awaiting takeoff.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) who are investigating the matter, ATC immediately instructed the crew to execute a “go around”. Despite this, the Aeromexico flight was apparently as little as 600 ft off the ground at one point. A second approach saw the plane land safely on the correct runway.
This is the third close call at SFO – the first was on 7th July 2017 when an Air Canada flight from Toronto came close to crashing into planes lined up to take off. Although cleared to land on Runway 28 Right, the aircraft lined up for Taxiway C, which runs parallel to the runway. On investigating the incident, Canada's Transportation Safety Board (TSB) estimated that the A320-200 overflew the first two aircraft by 100 ft., the third aircraft by 200 ft. and the fourth by 300 ft. The closest lateral distance to one of the aircraft was around 29 ft.
The second incident also involved an Air Canada flight, this time on 22nd October 2017. Flight AC781, an Airbus 320 was arriving at SFO from Montreal, Canada. Again, ATC had cleared the flight to land on Runway 28 Right and the crew had acknowledged the instructions. However, during its final approach, the tower ordered the flight to abort the landing, as they were concerned that the preceding arriving jet might still be on the runway. Even though controllers tried to reach the aeroplane several times and even used a light gun to wave off the aircraft, the crew continued the approach, later maintaining that their radio had malfunctioned.
The FAA implemented several new policies at SFO after the first incident and are now investigating the most recent.