SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) - We're learning about a scary takeoff incident at San Francisco airport that could have been disastrous had the plane not cleared the runway that ended just 400 feet and 1.5 seconds in front of the jetliner.
We've now learned what happened, who investigated and how the solution seems to have stopped a string of 25 similar incidents.
We know about this because everybody involved fessed up and the U.S. airline safety system worked.
Back in 2017, a flight crew preparing to take off from SFO fed incorrect runway information into their flight computer.
Though assigned to depart from a short runway, ZERO-ONE LEFT they punched in ONE-ZERO LEFT, a much longer runway going a different direction.
Now that's important because these long runways the airlines can actually use less thrust, to save the engines, and more runway in order to attain takeoff speed.
And, indeed, that crew though they were on the longer runway, when in fact, they were actually over here on the shorter runways and when they took off.
They almost overran the runway with only 400 feet to spare.
The undisclosed carrier reported the incident to the Federal Aviation Administration, that this had happened numerous times.
"We did a data analysis of our own and found out that, in the previous four years, there has been 25 incidents at SFO where airlines had taken off with less than a thousand feet of runway remaining," said FAA Spokesman Ian Gregor.
Some, but not all, says the FAA, probably due to erroneous runway selections punched into the computer.
As a result, changes were made to the carrier's flight computers to avoid this.
"We've been able to do extensive outreach to the pilot community, to not just the American pilot community but the international pilot community as well," said Gregor.
It's true that in all the incidents, the runway was rapidly running out.
But on all runways here, there's either a thousand feet of additional pavement the plane can use if needed or, on the shorter runways, an aircraft arresting system called EMAS, not unlike a runaway truck system, that has softer materials that will slow and stop the plane.
"The function of EMAS is to stop aircraft that overshoot the runway and there's been a number of EMAS saves all over the country," said Gregor.
After this 2017 incident at SFO and the corrections made, the FAA says SFO has not had a single incident of a plane departing with too little "official" runway left.