Embraer pilots missed abort calls after runaway van alert

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Canadian authorities have detailed an incident in which an Air Canada Embraer 190 failed to execute a go-around, despite two instructions from air traffic control, during a runway incursion event.

Air Canada flight AC178 had been on final approach to runway 24R, after a service from Edmonton, when tower personnel were alerted by ground surveillance to a target on the threshold.

The controller transmitted to the crew, "178, pull up and go around, sir", but received no response, and tried again: "178, pull up and go around."

But the aircraft did not abort the approach and landed, without incident, whereupon the controller inquired: "Did you hear my two calls to pull up and go around, sir?"

"I'm sorry," the pilot replied. "We heard them. We thought they were for somebody else."

The incursion had apparently been triggered by a runaway vehicle which, according to preliminary information from Transport Canada's incident database, had been attending a Sunwing Airlines Boeing 737-800 at Toronto gate H16.

Greater Toronto Airport Authority personnel said the driver of the Sunwing Airlines van had come out of the aircraft "to discover that the van was missing". It was found with its engine running, in gear, but unoccupied, south of the 24R threshold and east of the D7 taxiway.

"Did you see anything on the threshold there?" the tower controller asked the Embraer pilot. "We had a target pretty well-painted on the threshold."

The pilot responded: "Not a thing."

Communications from the incident, which took place at around 23:40 on 11 March, were captured by the air traffic control archive LiveATC.

Transport Canada says the unoccupied van caused "minor damage" to the 737-800's left-hand engine cowling.

Investigators from the Transportation Safety Board of Canada are gathering information on the incursion, stating that the maintenance van had "inadvertently rolled onto an active runway" and that the Embraer 190 had "narrowly missed it while landing".