Air Canada Flight Ignores Go-Around Calls at SFO

Pilots tell ATC they experienced radio problems.

For the second time this year, Air Canada pilots raised concerns while attempting to land at San Francisco International Airport.Wikimedia Commons

The FAA and Air Canada are investigating why the two pilots aboard an Air Canada flight ignored repeated calls from controllers at San Francisco tower to go around due to insufficient runway separation from another arrival. The incident occurred last Sunday night after the Air Canada Airbus A320 had previously been cleared to land on Runway 28 Right from a point on a six-mile final. Landing clearance is often based on separations controllers believe will exist when the next arrival crosses the landing threshold. But sometime things change and in this case the tower controller later believed that separation would not exist, hence the go-around call. Unfortunately, the Air Canada flight did not respond to any radio calls during the last six miles of flight.

In audio recordings released to the public, the tower controller can be heard asking the Air Canada flight to go around at least six different times in a 35-second period. Tower controllers even tried flash a red light-gun signal to the aircraft, but to no avail and the aircraft landed anyway. On taxi in, the crew said they must have had radio problems, to which the tower controller replied, “Apparently.”

Some experts wondered why the Air Canada crew didn’t seem to notice the log period of silence on the frequency, especially at an airport as busy as SFO and try a backup radio. In the crew’s defense, the light-gun signal was a long shot since few pilots would be looking off at the tower on landing. They’d be focused on the runway ahead.

In a news release, Air Canada said the flight was cleared to land and did as instructed. This week’s incident marks the second for an Air Canada at SFO in just a few months. In July, an Air Canada crew lined up for a taxiway at SFO rather than the runway. It was only because the pilot of an airliner sitting on the taxiway called the potential collision out to the tower that the aircraft executed a go-around.