Posts: 202
Joined: Thu Mar 29, 2001 8:00 am

SFO Runways

Thu Jun 21, 2001 7:55 am

SFO has two runways approaching from the bay on the south. I think they are 28L and 28R

My questions
1] are both these runways used for landing and takeoff of widebodies (say 747s and 340s etc)
If not which is not used for takeoff and or landing?
Also are there any limitations on direction of landing on these runways?

2] There are runways which are cross to these runways (takeoff toward oakland)
Are these used for widebodies as wel ?
If no then which one is used? and in which direction.

RE: SFO Runways

Thu Jun 21, 2001 9:05 am

#1. Both runways are used by all types of landing and departing aircraft.

#2. Yes widebodies do use these runways (1L/19R 1R/19L, however the heaviest flights (ones bound for Asia and Europe) usually use the 28's for departure since they are longer.

Under normal conditions at SFO, all arrivals use 28L/28R and most departures use 1L/1R, with the heavy jumbos using 28L/28R for departure. SFO tends to get windy in the afternoons and if the winds get up above 15-20kts they will start using the 28's for all departures as well as arrivals. In the winter when the winds shift as storm fronts approach, the normal operation is arrivals on 19L/19R and departures on 10L/10R. The rare operations are when they use 1L/1R or 10L/10R for arrivals. The winds have to be just right and it normally happens only once or twice a year.

Richard Silagi
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Joined: Fri Sep 17, 1999 7:43 am

RE: SFO Runways

Thu Jun 21, 2001 9:09 am

All four runways handle widebodies.

By far the most common pattern is arrivals on 28L/28R and departures on 1L/1R, except that some departures need more runway so they use 28L/28R.
Arrivals from the east ordinarily use 28R, arrivals from the south and west ordinarily get 28L, and arrivals from the north (and Europe and the Orient) coming in over the Point Reyes VOR might get vectored to either of the 28s, presumably based on which arrival stream (from the east, or from the south) has a handier gap.

Runway 1R is officially 8900 ft, so some departures to Europe use it, but almost all Orient (and most Europe) departures use 28L (10600 ft) or 28R (11870 ft). As they're taxiing out the tower will likely ask them whether they can use 28L or not; if they can they likely will, but many pilots request (and get) 28R.

As you would expect runway 1L is usually used by the departures that are going to turn left after takeoff to head down the coast-- which, as it happens, very few widebodies do. But I've seen Nippon Cargo 747s to LAX take off on 1L (which is officially 7000 ft, but actually around 7700 ft).

When the wind changes widebodies land on 19L-- can't say how often one accepts a landing on 19R. Widebodies have been known to depart from both 19L and 19R on rare occasions.

Far as I know widebodies can land or take off from either 10L or 10R.

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Joined: Sat Apr 28, 2001 3:26 am

RE: SFO Runways

Sat Jun 23, 2001 3:06 am

I don't know if it is still in print, but there was a great book that I think was entitled "Emergency in the cockpit" that had a chapter dedicated to a near disaster at SFO when calculations went wrong on a 747 take off on 1R. 28 R had been requested but just about everything that could go wrong did and they ended up taking out approach lights at the far end of the runway.

It did an excellent job outlining runway use at the time (seems like late 70s?) and has to be one of the most interesting books ever written about near air disasters and the pilots that saved the day
Posts: 202
Joined: Thu Mar 29, 2001 8:00 am

RE: SFO Runways

Sat Jun 23, 2001 8:06 am

Yes the book "Emergency in the cockpit" is still sold.
Its by Stanley Stewart.

Thanks for the info.
Posts: 2450
Joined: Mon Jun 05, 2000 5:31 am

"Crisis In The Cockpit"

Sat Jun 23, 2001 11:48 am

I have that book! The aircraft was a Pan Am 747. Maybe I'll re-read it and post something tomorrow.
Posts: 11191
Joined: Tue Jun 15, 1999 11:29 am

RE: SFO Runways

Sat Jun 23, 2001 12:06 pm

That'd have been Pan Am 845, SFO-Tokyo, back in the mid-1970s... Changed runways for departure, some bogus/confusing NOTAM info on runway length, but main culprit (if memory serves) was crew forgetting to re-set airspeed "bugs" for the revised runway/flap setting in use. They went through the approach lights (19L) which went through the botton of the aircraft, and failed 3 out of 4 hydraulic systems. I remember reading that one piece of angle iron from the approach lights went through the leg of a Japanese passenger. They dumped fuel and came back, eventually landing on the 28 they'd originally planned on using. The book, "Destination Disaster" has a picture of it....
ALL views, opinions expressed are mine ONLY and are NOT representative of those shared by Southwest Airlines Co.
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Joined: Wed May 16, 2001 3:38 am

RE: SFO Runways

Sun Jun 24, 2001 3:33 pm

IIRC, 28L/28R are so close together that landing restrictions occur when visibility drops below certain levels. Why were these runways built so close together in the first place? Didn't anyone anticipate the need for some extra room? I've always wondered why this is... TIA.

RE: SFO Runways

Mon Jun 25, 2001 1:08 am

Our company flies in and out of SFO on a frequent basis. I know that it might sound strange for a pilot to have a favorite runway, but personally, 28R at SFO is my favorite runway. Let me explain. Typically we land on 28R because it facilitates our arrival to the Signature FBO ramp. When the weather is good, ATC allows simultaneous approaches to 28L and 28R. It's pretty neat to be able to fly "legal formation" with an airliner as we both are on approach - them to 28L and us to 28R. You can almost see the people in the other plane smiling as we come down final together.
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Joined: Thu Mar 29, 2001 8:00 am

RE: SFO Runways

Sat Jun 30, 2001 3:21 am

In fact first time I saw the aircraft landing by my side I was scared.

I was in United DC-10 I think.

I was hearing the ATC on one of the channel.

ATC once said you have a 767 flying on your left ...
I just looked out, gash really a plane landing side by side.

That was my first time to see a plane airborne and soooo near.

But then I reasearched to find out that this a common practice in clear weather.

Its really fun !
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Joined: Sun Jul 16, 2000 3:44 am

RE: SFO Runways

Sat Jun 30, 2001 2:38 pm

Many times, widebodies request 28R because of its greater length. When I departed on UA954, 747-422 to LHR, we used 28R. And one time, I saw an Alitalia 767 depart 1R.

The separation between 28L/R is 750 feet. After visiting Bay TRACON, I saw controllers placing the planes next to each other so they can adequately put departures in between the arrivals. At heavy times, two controllers will watch the same radar screen. Without speaking to each other, they point to aircraft on the screen to pair them up for arrival.
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Joined: Mon May 24, 1999 5:53 am

RE: SFO Runways

Tue Jul 03, 2001 7:40 am

A few points/questions about SFO - an airport I've flown in and out of a number of times.

I've departed 1R in a BA 747 direct to LHR on a late December evening in 1984, with little wind - the roll seemed to take forever and we were very low over the 19L threshold.

Prior to my last visit in 2000, when arriving from the UK our routing onto 28L was (roughly) between the coast and the Bay, turning left onto the base leg just north of the Palo Alto area and then with a left onto finals.

In 2000 I did three approaches (one from Heathrow, one from Seattle and one from Reno). Each time we flew down over the Bay close to the Oakland shore, with a right hand circuit landing on 28R or 28L.

When did the landing pattern for 28s from the North and East change?

When approaching on 28s, all aircraft report the San Mateo Bridge and normally receive clearnce to land at that point (apart from exceptionally quiet periods).

On days with low visibility (not uncommon in the Bay) what is the landing clearance procedure?

With 1 departures being woven in between 28 arrivals, what is the minimum visibility for all runway operation?

Does everything go to 28s when the visibility drops below this minimum?
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RE: SFO Runways

Tue Jul 03, 2001 9:24 am

Don't think the approach has changed for flights from Asia, Europe and the north (and Reno, I believe) that are flightplanned over the Point Reyes VOR. ATC may tell them to depart the SFO VOR heading 140, expecting left turns to 28L, or they may turn them left to 100 as they fly over the city, giving them a downwind down the Bay and right turns to 28R.

Surface visibility is usually good at SFO-- I'd guess 10+ miles more than 90 percent of the time. Far as I know they never quit intersecting-runway operation just because of low visibility; if the ceiling drops to 2000-3000 ft (?) then they have to drop the simultaneous parallel approaches, but departures will usually continue perpendicular to arrivals as long as the wind permits.

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