FAA investigators launched an investigation after an Aeromexico aircraft was ordered to abort a landing when it lined up on the wrong runway which was occupied by another commercial jet.
Aeromexico flight #AM668 from Mexico City Tuesday 09 January 2018 at around 19:45 UTC, was cleared to land on Runway 28R, and correctly read back that clearance to air traffic controllers, said Ian Gregor, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman, according to The Mercury News.
About a mile from the airport, controllers noticed the aircraft was lined up for Runway 28L instead, which was occupied by a Virgin America Airbus A320 jet awaiting departure for Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.
The tower ordered the Aeromexico Boeing 737-800 (reg. XA-AMU) to abort the landing after the five-hour flight: “Aeromexico 668 go around!” an air traffic controller can be heard on audio recordings. Quickly, the pilot acknowledges the request to abort the landing: “Aeromexico 668 going around.”
Audio recording of ATC asking for go-around (courtesy LiveATC.net)
At the time of incident, SFO airport was using both runway 28L and 28R for landings but Aeromexico #AM668 was cleared for 28R.
Virgin America flight #VX1041 Airbus A320 (reg. N283VA) took off at 19:48 UTC from runway 28L to Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.
The Aeromexico jet was approaching SFO using its instrument landing system. Weather conditions at SFO at the time were overcast with visibility at about 10 miles.
Flight #AM668 safely landed 16 minutes later at 20:01 UTC on runway 28L (with clearance to 28L).
In July, an Air Canada flight mistook a crowded SFO taxiway for a runway, barely missing four fully loaded planes awaiting takeoff on the ground.
In October, another Air Canada flight crew landed on an SFO runway despite repeated warnings by an air traffic controller to abort.
The National Transportation Safety Board and FAA are investigating those incidents, respectively.
After the July incident, the FAA changed certain rules at SFO, such as how pilots approach landings and how the air traffic control tower is staffed.