October 19th, 2010
07:50 PM ET

Nothing wrong with jet's air show maneuver, FAA says

The internet has been abuzz over a video that appears to show a United Airlines 747 flying quite close to the Golden Gate Bridge during an air show more than a week ago in San Francisco, California. Some have expressed amazement that it would come so near the structure.

But the plane wasn’t as close as the video makes it appear, and the flight was executed as planned along an air show flight path and under the direction of an air traffic controller, a Federal Aviation Administration spokesman said Tuesday.

And the plane never flew over the bridge as some might believe from watching the video, but rather it stayed well in front of it, a United Airlines spokeswoman says.

The video, recorded during Fleet Week’s October 9-10 air show, may make a viewer believe the plane was banking over the bridge. But FAA spokesman Mike Fergus said Tuesday the radar track shows the plane’s closest proximity to the bridge was 1,200 feet, and no regulations were broken. The camera position and lens make the plane look closer than it was.

“The [position] of the aircraft can be misleading, absent anything around it to give it proper depth perception,” he said.

The plane - like other planes in the airshow, which included U.S. Navy Blue Angels - remained in airspace approved for the show by the FAA, Fergus said. And the maneuver is nothing new, with United participating in previous Fleet Week air shows as well.

“There was nothing out of the ordinary,” Fergus said.

The video may appear to show the plane flying over the bridge, but a close examination shows jet wash distorting the bridge’s image, revealing that the plane was always on the same side of the bridge as the camera. It was always on the San Francisco Bay side, rather than the Pacific Ocean side, of the structure, CNN’s Chad Myers reported.

Several other planes, including the Blue Angels, took roughly the same path, United spokeswoman Megan McCarthy said.

The air show is part of San Francisco’s Fleet Week, which honors the U.S. armed forces.

“We were proud to showcase one of our 747s in Fleet Week to celebrate our long standing partnership with the city of San Francisco,” McCarthy said in an e-mailed statement. “The fly-by was conducted as part of a well-publicized air show and with the utmost consideration to the safety of the public and the aircraft.”

CNN's Chad Myers and Deborah Doft contributed to this report.

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Filed under: Air travel • California • U.S.
soundoff (323 Responses)
  1. Bill

    What a load of #^%$ you could see the jet wash in front of the bridge HA HA HA also the landing gear wings tail... need I go on? and also the fact their was an Airshow going on and the fact that the CNN editing people did not catch the 1200ft? Bad sensational reporting.... too bad as it is this poor reporting that ensures you will be removing your shoes at the airport for a long time. That said of all the people that should understand what focal length does to video and photographs it should be the so called pros that use this equipment?

    October 20, 2010 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
  2. a little smarter

    The last I checked, 1,200 ft was no where near a mile. That is less than 1/4 mile. Someone needs a math lesson.

    October 20, 2010 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Pope David

    How does 1,200 feet equal "almost a mile?" last I knew a mile is 5,280 feet.

    October 20, 2010 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Pope David

    This kind of video could be anywhere like Ankorage, Alaska or Washington DC. Planes coming in for a landing there can look like their going to crash inot buildings or mountains. People have been fooled by this trick photography for a hundred years. Actually it's not even trick photography, it's mass ignorance gone viral by people who have nothing better to do than watch the boobtube or youtube.

    October 20, 2010 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Pope David

    This is as dumb as back in the 1980s, when the networks covering football came up with a new idea for camera placement. They decided to put a camera on the opposite side of the field. However, they decided that people were too stupid to figure out why the team taking the ball from left to right on the TV screen could suddenly start going right to left. So they called it the Reverse Angle camera.

    October 20, 2010 at 5:47 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Tetrapod

    This is a good demonstration of how difficult it is to judge things like distance or size when observing objects in the sky – here you had a terrestrial reference point – the bridge – but still a simple angle of viewing caused it to look as if the plane moved from behind the bridge to the front of it.

    Now when observing objects in the sky where you've got no terrestrial reference points near by, and even worse, if it's dark, you cannot judge distance or size at all. People think they can, and thus they report a huge bright object travelling fast in the distance, making impossible turns, when what they might actually be observing is a Chinese lantern flying relatively close by, being tossed by the wind.

    Yet some people are adamant that their impression was correct, even though they had no way to distinguish and positively identify the relevant factors, such as distance and size – and if you get those wrong, then you're going to get the speed wrong too.

    October 20, 2010 at 6:10 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Kammacorazon

    order an knockoff louis vuitton handbags for more

    February 3, 2012 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
  8. pringles

    people r retarded over camera angles. Thats why in football we have multiple angles, one angle can be misleading

    October 19, 2010 at 9:11 pm | Report abuse |
  9. John Doe


    Discussing camera angles nuances are fine, as long as you are not at the scene. When you see something firsthand without a camera, things change *A LITTLE* – there is no camera to blame for a view of a jet apparently flying into you. And that's a fact, not a speculation. Enjoy being elsewhere.

    You are definitely not retarded when it comes to knowledge of impact of camera angles on the final result. Being there in person is something completely different.

    October 19, 2010 at 11:38 pm | Report abuse |
  10. someone

    90 degress ... for you masqueraders

    October 20, 2010 at 8:28 am | Report abuse |
  11. Sense

    Were you there? Because I was there, and there wasn't even a remote sense of concern that the plane was going to hit the bridge or anything else. There was no anxiety. There was no fear. It was probably the most uneventful portion of the entire day! I didn't even think about it a second time until I saw this news article. Unreasonable people like you can play "what if" all day long, but it is not constructive. So take your anti-anxiety medication, don't forget to buckle-up, and stop whining about stupid little things that don't matter. You aren't helping.

    October 20, 2010 at 3:54 am | Report abuse |
  12. Bobington

    You should take some aluminum (sp?) foil and make yourself a hat, so they can not read your thoughts JohnDoe...

    October 20, 2010 at 7:37 am | Report abuse |
  13. Jon Doe

    PS I am a buttscratcher

    October 20, 2010 at 8:57 am | Report abuse |
  14. Carl

    Anyone who was present at the airshow would have had a different perspective. If you were to view that segment from another angle (say, the Marin headlands) you would have seen a large distance between the aircraft and the bridge. It never ceases to amaze me how pitifully ignorant people are. In America, you have the freedom to be as stupid as you want to be.

    October 20, 2010 at 9:12 am | Report abuse |
  15. Get honest and respectable, CNN

    The thing is that you, or other may not know about camera angles, and that's fine. CNN, however, SHOULD know about camera angles (as video is their business), and they should be able to convey that information to the viewers, thus debunking the story, or realizing that it's a non-story and never airing it.

    October 20, 2010 at 10:16 am | Report abuse |
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