It was a clear night, with the runway in sight. On short final, the pilot had received final VFR clearance for landing on 28R.
The only problem was that the pilot was lined up on his VFR (visual) approach to set his 320 down on the taxiway, not the runaway.
According to ATC radio recordings, the pilot seemed a little confused in his approach, reporting seeing “lights on the runway.”
“There’s no one but you on the runway,” responded the SFO tower controller.
Within seconds the United pilot at the front of the queue on Charlie radioed “Where’s this guy going? He’s on the taxiway!”
The controller urgently called a “go around.” By then the landing pilot realized his mistake and had already begun to abort his approach, but not before getting uncomfortably close to setting down on top of the idling airliners.