How flight crew exhaustion almost led to America's worst airline disaster

Air Canada flight 759's captain and co-pilot had been awake all day and were coming into San Francisco in the early hours of the morning, at the lowest point of their circadian cycle. A runway was closed for resurfacing, but they forgot or missed the note, and as a result almost landed on a taxiway full of planes getting ready to take off. It could well have been the worst airline disaster in American history. [via MeFi]

At that point he noticed that the position of Air Canada flight 759 looked “very strange.” Flight 759 overflew United Airlines flight 1 at an altitude of 100 feet and kept descending, headed straight for the Philippine Airlines A340. But with its landing lights on, the huge A340 was almost impossible to miss from such a close vantage point. At an altitude of 84 feet, both pilots on flight 759 called for a go-around simultaneously, and the captain advanced the throttles to abandon the approach. While the engines spooled up, the A320 dropped to a low point of about 65 feet, coming a hair’s breadth from clipping the 55-foot-tall vertical stabilizer of Philippine Airlines flight 115.

10 feet from contact, but it would have been followed by a far worst collision with the next jet on the taxiway, with a similar result--and death toll--to the Tenerife disaster.