On Friday night, something freaky and very almost catastrophic happened: an Air Canada flight, descending into San Francisco International Airport, tried to land on the taxiway instead of on the runway, where four other fully loaded planes Saturday.
Immediately, as transcripts obtained by CBS 5 show, air traffic control tells the Air Canada pilot to "go around" - a rare move in which the pilot is told to pull up out of the descent and circle back around to land.
The FAA says the plane made another approach and landed without incident.
"Air Canada flight AC759 from Toronto was preparing to land at San Francisco airport Friday night when the aircraft initiated a go-around", Peter Fitzpatrick, a spokesperson with Air Canada said in an email. The taxiway runs parallel to the runway.
In it, a male voice believed to be that of the Air Canada pilot is heard saying that there are lights on the runway.
"There's no one on 28R but you", said the air controller.
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. On it was four planes filled with passengers near the take-off. "Where's this guy going?".
CBC NEWS The Air Canada flight from Toronto was supposed to land on Runway 28R but almost landed on the adjacent taxiway
"Yeah, I saw that, guys", the air traffic controller responded.
That pilot's plane was waiting for clearance to take off with three others on a taxiway - the aviation equivalent of side roads that planes use to move between runways and terminals.
Curtis said it was impossible to know how often commercial pilots line up their landing for a taxiway instead of a runway because government databases only capture that if there is an accident or serious incident.
In an interview with the San Jose Mercury News, a former pilot said the plane avoided what could have been a "horrific" collision.
Air Canada says it too is investigating the flight from Toronto, which had 135 passengers and five crew members.
A spokesman for San Francisco's airport declined to comment. He added that the airline was investigating the circumstances.