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SFO flight nearly lands on wrong runway

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An airplane arriving at San Francisco International Airport on Tuesday almost landed on the wrong runway where another plane was waiting to depart, according to a Federal Aviation Administration spokesman.

At 11:45 a.m., Aeromexico Flight 668 was cleared to land on runway 28R and its crew correctly read back that clearance, FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said.

When the plane was about a mile from the airport, air traffic controllers noticed the aircraft was lined up for Runway 28L, where a Virgin America jet was waiting to depart, Gregor said.

Air traffic controllers instructed the Aeromexico flight’s crew to go around again, Gregor said.

Further details were not immediately available. FAA officials are currently investigating the incident, Gregor said.

A similar incident occurred July 7, when Air Canada Flight AC759 from Toronto had been cleared to land on Runway 28R but lined up to land on Taxiway C, which had four other passenger aircraft waiting to take off.

The pilot eventually noticed the problem and circled around, passing within just 59 feet of the runway, fueling speculation that a mass casualty event could have occurred in the event of a collision between Flight AC759 and the planes waiting to take off.

In that incident, the plane disappeared from SFO’s Airport Surface Detection Equipment/Airport Surface Surveillance Capability display — similar to radar — for nearly 12 seconds, possibly because it was off course.

Audio on the cockpit’s voice recorder was inexplicably overwritten and therefore unavailable, but investigators said the pilot and first officer on that flight had thousands of hours of experience flying that model of aircraft.

Then on Oct. 22, Air Canada Flight AC781 from Montreal landed despite attempts from air traffic controllers to get the pilot to circle around the airport due to uncertainty over whether the runway would be clear by the time they touched down.

After landing, the flight crew indicated they’d had a radio problem.

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