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.

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

    Me too & I love the Blue Angels!!!

    October 19, 2010 at 8:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • DEE61

      I saw the video yesterday my self and the female reporter was squealing like she was going to lay an egg. It was plane and clear that the aircraft was never close to hitting the bridge. when the reporter then referenced 9/11. I immediatly lodged a complaint to CNN about sensationalizing a "non event" I was disappointed for I expected better reporting from such a respected news agency

      October 20, 2010 at 8:56 am | Report abuse |
  2. Jack Cole

    The bridge was clearly in the background. If it actually flew over it, the jet would be much tinier.

    October 19, 2010 at 9:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • John Doe

      This is not the point.

      The point is that people who were there may have been feeling like being a target of a terrorist attack because the jet flew so close to them, regardless of any "camera angles" and other BS.

      Now CNN tries to raise the awareness about the incident, and I don't blame them.

      To rephrase an opinion of one of the members of discussion here: "only a *DEAD* moron would have been concerned about this plane being close to the bridge"

      October 19, 2010 at 11:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Me

      Guys media overreacted on this clip, if you look closely you will see the plane is flying in an angle where plane seems to have clipping its wing with the bridge but it is "parallel to the bridge" and also far from the bridge, it took 7 second to come around where you can see the actual distance from the bridge. It is just like the mountains behind the bridge where they looks like next to bridge but they are not. Media always overreacts and try to make things worse, this is their business

      October 20, 2010 at 12:38 am | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      @John Doe: You need some serious psychotherapy and maybe medication. The people who were there were there to see the planes at an airshow. They were not reminded of 9-11.

      October 20, 2010 at 12:40 am | Report abuse |
    • Tia

      @John Doe

      Please up your medications and lock yourself in your safe little house. Imagine the horror of people going to AN AIR SHOW and seeing...oh my god...AIRPLANES FLYING! This was a well publicized event and the only people who were scared were uneducated idiots like you. You are the definition of "retarded".

      October 20, 2010 at 12:59 am | Report abuse |
    • John Doe


      You need a dose of reality and a knowledge of history to recommend anything other than food supplements.

      October 20, 2010 at 1:07 am | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      @John Doe: I truly feel sorry for you. How do you cope with even getting out of bed in the morning fearing constantly that you are about to be struck down by terrorists at any moment. I assure you, I am well familiar with history, but I am realistic about risks. And I don't live my life quaking in constant fear of highly unlikely events. Get some help.

      October 20, 2010 at 1:16 am | Report abuse |
    • Pete Tatton

      Much tinier? The plane's closest proximity to the bridge was 1200 feet. If an equipment failure occurred, I like someone to prove they could have recovered without hitting the bridge. It was a risky stunt. I actually think it was more risky performing the bank there than flying over the bridge.

      October 20, 2010 at 5:23 am | Report abuse |
    • Naps

      It's camera angle and a long lens. Any amateur photographer would see this–if you have a SLR camera, you'd know. Usually photographers/videographers distinguish the subject from the background by using a shallow depth of view (blurring aka bokeh, the background). With the subject far away, you have to use a long lens, which gives a much deeper field of view, flattening the image and making it difficult to perceive the distance between the subject and the background.

      There is also little chance that the bank angle was all that dangerous as one poster theorized. We're talking about a 4 engine aircraft with no fuel/passenger/cargo load, and flaps extended.

      October 20, 2010 at 7:05 am | Report abuse |
    • AGeek

      Totally, because, you know, a monocular perspective in a video presented on teh interwebs is always the very best source when you want to call an abundance of caution to something.

      Look, there were tens, if not hundreds of thousands of people watching that show. At least a couple of them probably had cell phones (new fangled technology and all). If there were *REALLY* a problem, don't you think at least ONE person would have called ..oh, I don't know .. if only we had a quick, simple emergency number.. like maybe 9-1-1.

      John Doe: Sit down, shut up, and enjoy the video. Leave the concern to spectators in meatspace – really. They've got a pretty good grip on it. Oh, and yes, you *do* need to up your dosage and get some therapy. Although, I'm not sure the FDA has approved anything for the treatment of excessive stupidity.

      October 20, 2010 at 7:05 am | Report abuse |
    • @ john doe

      your just plian stupid.. " OMG 747 flying low what are we gonna do.. AHHH RUNNN" stupid its an air show

      October 20, 2010 at 7:22 am | Report abuse |
    • Pope David

      I doubt anyone there was worried because they weren't looking through a telephoto lens, which is responsible for the illusion in the video.

      October 20, 2010 at 8:09 am | Report abuse |
    • MXD

      John Doe – you are an absolute moron.

      October 20, 2010 at 8:10 am | Report abuse |
    • Really

      @John Doe........ Seriously, all your retarted fear mongering is exactly what the terrorists want. They want people like you to try to remind all of the rest of us that we should "live in fear". Therefore I draw the conclusion that you must be a terrorist as well. Please think before you speak or write, the wold will be better off.

      October 20, 2010 at 8:33 am | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      @ john doe said, "your just plian stupid.." Hahahahahah! Oh, the irony!

      October 20, 2010 at 9:14 am | Report abuse |
    • TLL

      John Doe:

      Please do not go to an airport!! You will be totally freaked out. Lots of close planes everywhere, and you may not have the correct meds to deal with it.

      October 20, 2010 at 10:17 am | Report abuse |
  3. S

    Seriously these two are idiots, making a big deal of nothing. CNN, is it a slow news day?

    October 19, 2010 at 9:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • S

      By two, I meant the two guys in the video.

      October 19, 2010 at 9:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mikael

      I can't stand it when someone makes the "slow news day" jab. This site features literally hundreds of articles at a time, ranging in subject matter from pressing national security issues to hangover cures (seriously. Check it out). You've chosen to read these articles, which is absolutely all that matters. Feel free to contain your "news" reading to http://www.reuters.com/news/world if you're so prone to be offended by "minor" reporting.

      October 19, 2010 at 10:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • me

      Agreed, only a moron would have been concerned about this plane being close to the bridge.

      October 19, 2010 at 10:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • swampnole

      you say it's stupid they were worried, but if you had been there live, not knowing what was to happen, you might also be a little worried about a huge, low-flying plane headed towards one of america's largest bridges. i find your lack of empathy disturbing

      October 20, 2010 at 12:26 am | Report abuse |
    • RemoveableBing

      Slow news day? If it's all over youtube people will be angry with the FFA, United, the event organizers. Of course they will say the bridge wasn't in danger but the public often have a hard time swallowing that when they see what appears to be something different. CNN helped clear the misconception by explaining what was happening. Would you rather they have made a big deal out of it trying to make it look worse?

      October 20, 2010 at 12:55 am | Report abuse |
    • Tia

      swampnole, this was a well-publicized event and United has participated in it in the past. If anyone living in San Francisco didn't know that it was Fleet Week and that there would be a planes, including the United 747, flying in that area then they live in a vacuum and probably still don't know that it happened.

      October 20, 2010 at 1:02 am | Report abuse |
  4. Robert

    The photo was clearly taken from far away using a zoom lens. Anyone who has taken photographs know that in this situation, objects will look closer together than in reality. Even in that shot, the 747 isn't close to hitting the bridge.

    October 19, 2010 at 9:07 pm | Report abuse |
  5. bubber

    The engines were sputtering! Yup! I was there!

    October 19, 2010 at 9:13 pm | Report abuse |
  6. haha

    Yeah I noticed that too.... Wasn't even close.


    October 19, 2010 at 9:14 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Brian

    Learn about telephoto lenses, you bunch of sissies....

    October 19, 2010 at 9:20 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Ty Rogoway

    I am a pro aviation photographer and I shoot with military units and civilian firms all over the world. This is a pretty sad excuse for a story and I am blown away CNN would put this up. What you are seeing there is lens compression, taking a 3D scenerio and converting it to 2D for film and video. That UAL 744 was not just safely but rediculously far from Golden Gate Bridge. Did you consult anyone who is even remotely and expert on aviation or even photography for that matter? Take this story down, it hurts the future prospects of outreach by the aviation community to American's, especially the young ones, who are interested in the magic of flight. You realize that by making something out of nothing like this, UAL will never give the people of San Fran an awesome chance to see the 744 perform SAFELY for spectators again. Do you know how much it cost them to fly that plane for the crowd THOUSANDS. Now they are being shamed for it. How can an airshow on the San Fran bay remind you of 9-11, those who say this are nuts to begin with and you can never win. Think twice before posting crap like this please.

    October 19, 2010 at 9:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Robert

      I agree with everything you have said, you make great points. But when you are claiming to be a professional aviation photographer, you should at least get the model of aircraft correct. If it is a typo, you need to proof-read your work before posting. If this is a flight number (which it wouldn't be because it is part of an airshow) then you would be correct. This is a 747, even the journalist got this correct. It's been sometime since I brushed up on my civilian aircraft, but I would venture to say it is a 747-400 series. Pay more attention next time to what you write, and your post would have earned more credibility than it did.

      October 19, 2010 at 10:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tyler Durden


      I think Ty was being too professional. In the aviation business we don't say 747-400. We say 744. We know it's a 747 because there is no other 74 anything. The 4 at the end denotes it's a 400 model. If it was an 800 model it would have been a 748. So what Ty said is absolutely correct.

      October 19, 2010 at 10:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lindsay

      Well said. Individuals who know nothing about aviation, in this case the clowns at CNN, should not be reporting on aviation events. What a beautifull sight. A 747 low and slow with everything hanging out and the Golden Gate Bridge as a backdrop. It does'nt get much better than that. Love it.

      October 19, 2010 at 10:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • eagle

      Ty is correct. This is a 744 and a 747-400. Boeing uses the third digit as the series. If you want to get picky, if UAL purchased this aircraft off the line, it would be a 747-422. The 22 being Boeing’s ID number for UAL. A 737-500 purchased by SWA would be 735 or 737-5H4.

      October 19, 2010 at 11:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • John Doe

      You can discuss distinctions between 747-400 and 744 in hell, after you get hit by the jet in question.

      Does it make you any more comfortable in discussing technicalities?

      October 19, 2010 at 11:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      Robert, how's that foot of yours taste?

      October 19, 2010 at 11:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      They reported it precisely because so many idiots on the internet were talking about how horrible it was that a 747 flew so low over the bridge. It was actually an interesting and well-reported story explaining the "lens compression" phenomenon for those of us who are not professional videographers.

      But you guys sure did show Robert up for an ignorant fool.

      October 19, 2010 at 11:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • John Doe


      > "lens compression" phenomenon

      Phenomenas tend to be interesting until you get your own a** scorched in a jet fuel explosion. Remember that.

      October 20, 2010 at 12:00 am | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      @John Doe: What kind of paranoid are you? Have you never been to an airshow. The plane flew a precise path over the designated clear area. Perfectly safe.

      I've been to an airshow where I got to stare straight up the 4 pipes of a B-1 doing full throttle maximum afterburner climb no more that 1,000 feet above me. So loud my body and the ground around me were shaking. No fear here.

      October 20, 2010 at 12:32 am | Report abuse |
    • John Doe


      > What kind of paranoid are you? Have you never been to an airshow. The plane flew a precise path over the
      > designated clear area. Perfectly safe.

      I am the kind of paranoid who is normal for the times and still remembers 9/11. We all need to remain a little paranoid, and not take our way of life as granted.

      You would not have known that a plane was flying a precise path if you had been only a viewer at the scene. Your "perfectly safe" assumes that all security has been checked and enforced. That would have been the same situation on 9/11/2001 – assuming that only long haul passenger flights are capable of hitting the landmarks, and not air-show flights, is rather, well, flimsy?

      October 20, 2010 at 12:45 am | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      @John Doe: It was a freaking airshow! One that's been going on for decades. Planned. Publicized. Programmed. Anyone in the Bay Area who did not know about it in advance is truly ignorant, And it was a long way from the bridge! Anyone who was there could see that because they were not being deceived by a camera. Do you thing they thought the Blue Angels were attacking them? Sheesh! Get over it already.

      October 20, 2010 at 12:57 am | Report abuse |
    • John Doe


      > It was a freaking airshow! One that's been going on for decades. Planned. Publicized. Programmed.

      So were the flights from Boston in 2001.

      October 20, 2010 at 1:09 am | Report abuse |
    • eddie

      WELL SAID – from a brit..

      October 20, 2010 at 5:51 am | Report abuse |
    • Bananas

      @ John Doe,

      When you go to the beach are you freaked out that a shark will most certainly chomp you in two simply b/c you have seen Jaws? How do you venture outside knowing that a piece of Space Junk may potentially fall from the sky and crush you. I'm amazed you even find the strength to leave your house each morning.....actually, that being said, how do you know that your house won't simply collapse on you. Your dogged determination and refusal to let death seize you "Final Destination style" is so inspiring..........

      October 20, 2010 at 7:17 am | Report abuse |
    • bob2561

      hey guys,quit picking on Robert. cnn is creating something out of nothing, stop raining on their parade.

      October 20, 2010 at 7:59 am | Report abuse |
  9. Dinko Bob 309.3

    Wow. You news reporters are morons to report this in the first place. Any sane smart person can see the 747 is no where near the level of the bridge. MORONS. But I guess that is what a reporter is in the first place.

    October 19, 2010 at 9:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steve Mitchell (AZ)

      Amen. It's a non story by sensationalistic reporters. How sickening!!!

      October 19, 2010 at 9:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • okala runner

      maybe take more time to research a story?? you know, like they teach you in high School ********

      October 19, 2010 at 9:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bobington

      All news reporters are pretty much tabloid writers anymore anyway, and this is proof. Here is a picture, now make a story out of it!

      October 20, 2010 at 7:41 am | Report abuse |
  10. Richard Sutherland

    I actually was there and watched that plane fly past from Alcatraz. It was nowhere near the bridge.

    October 19, 2010 at 9:47 pm | Report abuse |
  11. MC

    You have to be kidding me. CNN is truly a sorry excuse for journalism.

    October 19, 2010 at 10:00 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Parkerman

    Ok, people we are getting a little too uptight about planes flying close to structures. I mean I know we are all still a little sensitive since 9/11, but lets lighten up a little. In San Diego the planes have to fly between buildings to land so it does have to happen sometimes.

    October 19, 2010 at 10:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • John Doe

      > In San Diego the planes have to fly between buildings to land so it does have to happen sometimes.

      Well, then maybe San Diego is one of the easiest targets for the next attack using commercial airliners? How about trying to find (and fund) a way to change that?

      October 20, 2010 at 12:08 am | Report abuse |
  13. DKA

    Surpised that nobody has commented that a seagull was flying faster than the 747. Maybe CNN will investigate that next.

    October 19, 2010 at 10:16 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Erik

    Okay, who is more pathetic: those youtubers who think that this plane is anywhere near the Golden Gate Bridge, or CNN for investing so much time and energy in explaining, with their big smart board, how dumb you have to be to think that the plane was anywhere near the bridge? I am an educator, and I refuse to believe that anyone is so stupid as to think that during Fleet Week in San Francisco Bay a passenger jet would be allowed anywhere near a major landmark or public gathering. If you are that stupid, I guess you do need CNN to explain it to you with little words and a big viewscreen.

    October 19, 2010 at 10:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • John Doe

      Mr. Educator,

      Imagine that one of the pilots of the jet flying close to the Golden Gate Bridge is a terrorist (which you would *NOT* see from outside of the plane, being a spectator), and has a firm intention to fly into the Bridge, how would you tell the trajectory of the jet from the last 1,200 feet of its flight? How far would you be able to escape from your car on the bridge? Or from your boat? [You don't really need to bother yourself about details on how it happened that a terrorist was within the crew, just assume a possibility]

      You are unloading your anger at the wrong people.

      October 19, 2010 at 10:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Andreas

      John Doe said: "Imagine that one of the pilots of the jet flying close to the Golden Gate Bridge is a terrorist". If he/she was a terrorist, what difference does the closeness of the flyby make? If they're 10 miles away they'll still go for the bridge.

      But wait, imagine if ANY airliner pilots are terrorists? But seriously...

      October 20, 2010 at 6:46 am | Report abuse |
  15. douglas

    These guys are dorks spending time explaining this. I hope no one paid them for that.

    October 19, 2010 at 10:25 pm | Report abuse |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13