EasyJet captain intervened after United 787 approach error in Paris

The Dreamliner came within 300ft of the A320 while trying to land in the French capital last July

French investigators have revealed that the captain of an easyJet Airbus A320 stepped in to urge the crew of a United Airlines Boeing 787 to go around after the widebody lined up with the wrong runway at Paris/Charles de Gaulle. 

The Dreamliner, N16009 (c/n 40938), was on approach to runway 09L but was cleared to land on the parallel 09R. Shortly thereafter, it began a sidestep manoeuvre to line up with the new landing strip. 

The 787-10, seen here departing Heathrow in March 2021, was first delivered to United in April 2019. Aviation Image Network/Simon Gregory

The A320, OE-IJF (c/n 6675) – which had been instructed to line up and wait behind previous landing traffic – entered runway 09R at this time.  

According to the report by the Bureau of Enquiry and Analysis for Civil Aviation Safety (BEA), the narrowbody crew first looked up the approach path when they were given clearance to enter the runway and then again after they completed the take-off checklist. During both instances, the crew reported seeing the approaching Dreamliner. 

Seen here in 2019, OE-IJF (c/n 6675) was originally to easyJet in July 2015, but was transferred to its European subsidiary in December 2017. Wikimedia Commons/Anna Zvereva

It was during the second visual assessment that the easyJet pilots described seeing the 787 banking to the right in an attempt to line up with the occupied runway. 

The A320 crew then brought the aircraft to a stop around ten metres onto the runway, perpendicular to the approaching aircraft. 

The 787 was approximately 300ft high and 0.7nm (1,300m) from the runway threshold. 

The easyJet captain then announced on the frequency, “Tower, there is a traffic landing 09R”, followed by “Go around 09R, go around”. 

The Dreamliner then aborted the approach which was quickly followed up by a transmission from air traffic control confirming the go around and requesting a climb to 4,000ft. 

The incident occurred on July 20 last year and involved a United Airlines flight inbound to the French capital from New York/Newark. 

The Boeing-built jet descended to a minimum height of 80ft but passed over the A320 at around 300ft and continued round for a new approach to 09L and landed without incident. 


Upon first contact with the tower controller, the Dreamliner crew were told they were “number one for 09 right cleared to land 09 right”. Thinking they were cleared for 09L, the crew replies “Understand cleared to land 09 Right, sidestep for 9 Right United 57”. 

The controller did not respond to the readback and investigators concluded that the use of the word “understand” implied the need for a correction from ATC if necessary. Having received no contrary clearance from the controller, the 787 continued the approach. 

The Dreamliner crew were no strangers to sidestep manoeuvres as they considered them to be common in the US, the report said. The pilots believed the runway change was due to the slowness of the traffic it was following and a reduction in potential separation. 

The BEA concluded that the controller's lack of practice linked with the decrease in traffic during the COVID-19 pandemic was a contributing factor.  

Investigators also said the use of a non-standard expression, “understand”, by the United crew to the detriment of “confirm”, was also a factor. 

All parties including both aircraft and the controller spotted the conflict at around the same time and were in the process of taking action when the easyJet captain intervened over the frequency.  

The airport’s Runway Incursion Monitoring and Collision Avoidance System (RIMCAS) also detected a conflict and emitted an alarm as the controller confirmed the go around and climb instruction.