Air Canada Almost in Deadliest Accident in Aviation History — CRM Training Saves Countless Lives

sfo near miss aviation simulation

Yesterday in San Francisco (July 10, 2017), Mercury News reporter MATTHIAS GAFNI wrote how Air Canada pilots almost landed an Airbus 320 onto the jetway where four other planes were waiting to take off. The incident provides a strong example of why Crew Resource Management (CRM) communication protocols allowed for everyone involved to create awareness, recommendations, and change. In this case that “must hear” communication helped save almost a thousand lives.

SAN FRANCISCO — In what one aviation expert called a near-miss of what could have been the largest aviation disaster ever, an Air Canada pilot on Friday narrowly avoided a tragic mistake: landing on the San Francisco International Airport taxiway instead of the runway.

Sitting on Taxiway C shortly before midnight were four airplanes full of passengers and fuel awaiting permission to take off, according to the Federal Aviation Administration, which is investigating the “rare” incident. An air traffic controller sent the descending Air Canada Airbus 320 on a “go-around” — an unusual event where pilots must pull up and circle around to try again — before the safe landing, according to the federal agency. FAA investigators are still trying to determine how close the Air Canada aircraft came to landing and potentially crashing into the four aircraft below, but the apparent pilot error already has the aviation industry buzzing.


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“If it is true, what happened probably came close to the greatest aviation disaster in history,” said retired United Airlines Capt. Ross Aimer, CEO of Aero Consulting Experts. He said he’s been contacted by pilots from across the country about the incident. “If you could imagine an Airbus colliding with four passenger aircraft wide bodies, full of fuel and passengers, then you can imagine how horrific this could have been,” he said.

You can bet that this exact scenario conditions will be programmed into simulators around the world, especially for those pilots flying into San Francisco. As well, I am sure that the Ground Control teams at SFO will take a deep look at the lighting patterns for the runway to see what else could be  done to better indicate approaching flights.

In aviation, such near misses cause huge safety investigations from multiple agencies. When does that happen in healthcare for our near misses? — Why is TeamStepps training not mandatory for healthcare professionals like CRM is for aviation industry professionals? Possibly because the lives of the healthcare providers aren’t also on the line, only their patients. Harsh as that may sound, why else would healthcare not force adoption of the issue, like aviation did? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.

Read the Whole Mercury News Story About the Never-Event here


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