View Full Version : Simultaneous Approaches Rwy 28 at SFO

21st Sep 2008, 06:47
Many is the time I have been vectored for an approach on 28L at SFO, then when you have little option, you are informed about another aircraft at very close quarters off the wingtip in visual conditions and asked to maintain visual separation with the other (often slower) aircraft lining up for 28R even when on opposing headings. The runways are only 750ft apart and controllers seem to routinely arrange simultaneous approaches when they could apply earlier horizontal separation. I know of no other airport where this practice is routine in such close formation and overtaking of the other aircraft is common, despite the illegality. The aftermouth is often discussed at the Customs line and it's sometimes ugly.
What is the practical effect of refusing to comply? Who goes around? How do the US controllers treat such incidents? Is there the same concern among US carriers or is this just SOP?

21st Sep 2008, 15:46
I do not believe that any of us "enjoy" those approaches, like so many airports... SFO was built at a time of smaler, slower and less traffic and currently thats what we are stuck with. Coupled with terrain, cloud cover and lots of traffic it makes for "challenging approaches." Not sure what ATC would have you do if you refused...I'm thinking a break out for revectors or holding...just don't know. Our company gives us some guidance from FOQA to help in a more stabalized approach...rather than accepting 6000' and 210kts for a 10mile final, we request 5000' and 190kts. Prior to base be at 190kts and when turning final gear, final flap setting or the greatest flap setting you can use with speed brakes and slow.

21st Sep 2008, 20:06
AFAIK, such separation is "legal" in VMC. When I was new to the 747, on a sunny afternoon they vectored me to left downwind/base and then turned me to final on 28L right next to a 777 going to 28R. They called the traffic and we acknowledged it, and there was no speed/overtake restriction. However, after we were established next to him, we got a TCAS RA for him! We decided to continue...

Another time we were coming in on 28R on a long final, and an MD-80 came diving in from the stratosphere to 28L. We were told to maintain visual separation "behind" him. That was well & good until he finally got down to a normal G/S and slowed down. We barely were able to do so in the remaining distance.

I recommend you tell the controller "We're currently at 140 knots, minimum approach speed; unable to slow further to remain behind traffic." Put the onus on him to give you another clearance or make you go around.

Manual Reversion
21st Sep 2008, 21:39
Add on 'synchro pairs' taking off from the 'ones' and it's an accident waiting to happen. I think they got quite close last year, but I fear it will take an accident to slow things down. I can't say a PRM 'breakout' after ten hours of flying fills me with joy either.

22nd Sep 2008, 00:20
SOIA/PRM arrpoaches are the current answer to the closely-spaced parallel runways in instrument conditions. However, the even-closer visual separation schemes are alive and well in VMC.

Old Smokey
23rd Sep 2008, 17:36
My most alarming approach onto SFO 28L was once with the F/O flying the approach (perfect VMC) on the 28L ILS with an MD80 a few hundred metres ahead on approach to 28R. My F/O was flying completely "heads down". On my making the remark, "keep an eye on the other aircraft", he got such a shock that he immediately pulled up and rolled left, about 20 degrees off runway alignment. I SHOULD have gone around, but as we were 20 degreea pointing away from the approach, eased the nose down, re-sighted the other aircraft, and, having taken control, I then rejoined and flew the remainder of the approach.



Old Smokey