I believe it was the late racecar driver and announcer Buddy Baker who used to say “a wreck that missed” when drivers narrowly avoided an accident.
There are wrecks that miss … and then there are wrecks that miss.
If flight 759 had collided with the roof of the United 787, it would have easily ripped through the top of the cabin, crushing many of its occupants and leaving the survivors with only a narrow window to escape the inevitable inferno. The rear of the plane would likely have been totally destroyed. The main body of the Air Canada A320 would then have continued onward, striking the United 737 head-on only one or two seconds later. Both aircraft would likely have been destroyed by the impact or by fire with few, if any, survivors. The number of people on board the 787 and the 737 is not known, but if both were at 75% capacity, then the death toll could have been as high as 460. If both planes were full, then it could have rivaled the Tenerife Disaster.
— “The near crash of Air Canada flight 759,” Admiral_Cloudberg, Medium
For all of the hassles that go along with it, the actual act of airline travel — the taking off, flying and landing of the plane — is considered so routine that even turbulence in the middle of the night over the Atlantic Ocean seemingly bothered no one but me.
Yet even “routine” flights require a lot of things to go right.