Citation Overflies 737 On Runway At San Diego


The FAA is investigating a runway incursion at San Diego Airport involving a Citation that overflew a Southwest aircraft just after noon on Friday. The FAA says the Citation was cleared to land after the 737 had moved onto the runway to line up and wait. Reuters said the Citation cleared the Southwest plane by about 100 feet, surface detection equipment alerted the tower and the Citation was ordered to go around. The Southwest flight then took off for San Jose.

“Our aircraft departed without event and the flight operated normally, with a safe landing in San Jose as scheduled,” the airline said. The incident bears some similarity to an incident in Austin in February in which a FedEx 767 overflew a Southwest flight that was on the roll on the runway. Both aircraft had been cleared in that incident, too. Weather was at minimums in fog in the Austin incident, but the weather in San Diego was benign at the time of the incident.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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  1. The FAA needs to move some of the great controllers that served at Airventure to the locations that’re having this problem. They’re gonna have a hard time blaming THIS one on the pilots … although … I’da thunk that the citation pilot would have seen the SW airplane fouling the runway?

    • That’s the thing. If the Citation pilot would have been able to see the SW plane on the runway, then the Citation pilot may be asked what they were doing that close to the bigger jet.

    • There’s now more info in the parallel ‘updated’ Mark Phelps article on this subject elsewhere on Avweb.

      Even if the buildings and other visual ground clutter of SAN were hindering the Citation pilot’s view over the nose, he HEARD the clearance to the SW jet and was seeking to call the tower to get it clarified. The controller was talking to a third airplane dealing with an amended clearance. This makes it even worse in my mind! Was there only one controller on duty or ??

      I’m seeing a controller error trend here and I’m taking away the following thought … when I’m issued a clearance to land, assume it isn’t and keep my Mark 8 eyeballs on high alert while being ready to side step and/or go around. If THIS is the way they’re gonna run SAN, maybe it’s time to make it an uncontrolled airport … let the pilots sort themselves out. Beyond that, whenever an airplane is inside the FAF and has been given a “cleared to land” — and despite PB’s comments on this elsewhere — I think a controller ought to be in a ‘sterile’ environment themselves, too. No yakking .. watch the landing airplane(s) and make sure the landing area IS clear. If that’s not the way it is … then we don’t need controllers! Saying ‘cleared to land’ means just that!

      This is now clearly an ATC problem. Get your poopus maximus together, FAA!

  2. You don’t think that the Citation, with SAN’s 1800′ displaced landing threshold, could possibly thought that the SWA being way up at the beginning of the runway in the threshold, was just in a holding area up there, and that is the way we do it in SAN. And the Citation after clearing all the parking garage and such on final was maybe in a pretty flat attitude as he/she arrested the sink rate and just couldn’t see that well over the nose. No? Naw!

  3. Not a pilot, am an A&P, and two such close ones as in Austin and San Diego this year has me wondering WHY. Asking the pilots here, are these two incidents rare or does this happen often?

    • It does happen occasionally, usually due to an overworked, tired controller. Thankfully, the runway safety system (AMASS?) worked the way it’s supposed to.

  4. Dan Gryder on Probably Cause youtube channel compiled and posted the transcript. A catastrophic accident was averted by 2-3 seconds. Great learning tool. Have a listen. The controller was distracted by reading a clearance to a pilot. Clearly more training is required. Never, ever, do anything else when an aircraft is on a one mile final. Keep your eyes outside the cab.

    • It wasn’t clear to me if the Citation pilot had eyes on the SWA jet. He was asking if he was still cleared to land, so he knew something was off. But, he probably should have initiated the go-around earlier if he did have visual.

  5. I worked 29 years as a controller, the last 20 at D01 or Denver Tracon. I watched the training go from, you get this many hours of training to certify, or you were washed out, and sent to a lower level facility. A few years before retiring, we had now arrived at the FAA’s plan called “Train to Succeed”. Translation, nobody washes out, they now train on position until they are able to certify or retire, whatever comes first. It is not a good scenario.

    • I hope this isn’t true (does anyone know if this is current policy?). I’m former ATC. This is a dangerous situation and will produce some incompetent controllers.