July 11 (UPI) -- An Air Canada plane almost landed on a taxiway with four other planes at San Francisco International Airport, avoiding a major disaster.
"However, the pilot inadvertently lined up for Taxiway C, which runs parallel to the runway," the statement said. "An air traffic controller sent the Air Canada jet around."
The Airbus A320, with 135 passenger and a crew of five aboard, landed safely, according to the FAA.
"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, to The Mercury News. "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."
The Air Canada pilot told air traffic control he saw other lights on the runway before being told there are no other planes on 28R, according to audio recording between air traffic control and pilots available from Live ATC.
The control tower responded: "Air Canada 759 confirmed cleared to land runway 28 right. There is no one on 28-Right but you."
Shortly after, an unidentified voice can be heard questioning the flight landing: "Where is this guy going? He's on the taxiway."
The air traffic controller told the plane to "go around" and make another attempt at landing.
A United pilot on the taxiway told air traffic control: "Air Canada flew directly over us."
"Yeah, I saw that guys," the control tower responded.
The FAA said the situation is "very rare" and it is investigating how close the Air Canada plane came to the four planes on the taxiway.
An Air Canada spokesperson said the airline also is investigating.
"One of the questions that they may ask is were the pilots fatigued? ... Were they in their normal window of wakefulness?" Barry Wiszniowski, president of Aviation Safety Management Experts, told The Globe and Mail. "There are a lot of questions that need to be asked."
On July 6, 2013 at the San Francisco airport, Asiana Airlines Flight 214 from Seoul crashed as it arrived. Three of the 307 passengers and crew aboard died, and 187 were injured. Federal investigators determined that pilot error caused the plane to arrive too low at the airport runway.