Wednesday, March 12, 2014
The Associated Press
SAN FRANCISCO — Investigators trying to understand why Asiana Airlines Flight 214 crash-landed focused Monday on the actions of an experienced pilot learning his way around a new aircraft, fellow pilots who were supposed to be monitoring him and why no one noticed that the plane was coming in too slow.
An unidentified family member of the two girls killed during the Asiana Airlines plane crash on Saturday, cries at the Asiana Airlines counter as she and other family members check infer the flight to San Francisco at the Pudong International Airport in Shanghai, China, Monday, July 8, 2013. The Asiana Airlines flight crashed while landing at San Francisco International Airport on Saturday, killing at least two people, injuring dozens of others and forcing passengers to jump down the emergency inflatable slides to safety as flames tore through the plane. The flight originated in Shanghai, China, and stopped over in Seoul, South Korea, before coming to San Francisco, airport officials said. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
In this Saturday, July 6, 2013 aerial photo, the wreckage of Asiana Flight 214 lies on the ground after it crashed at the San Francisco International Airport, in San Francisco. The pilot at the controls of airliner had just 43 hours of flight time in the Boeing 777 and was landing one for the first time at San Francisco International. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
NTSB crash findings
Asiana Flight 214 makes its final approach after a 10-hour flight that started in Shanghai and stopped in Seoul. A preliminary review of the crash by federal investigators turns up the following:
— APPROACH PROCEEDS NORMALLY ... the plane receives clearance from air traffic control to land without its instrument landing system. Visibility is about 10 miles with winds out of the southwest at 7 knots. There are no distress calls or requests for support in the air traffic control tapes that captured the discussion between a controller and the Asiana crew.
— PLANE DESCENDS ... at 1,600 feet and 82 seconds before impact the autopilot disengages. At 1,400 feet and 73 seconds before impact, the plane's speed is about 196 mph. At 1,000 feet and 54 seconds before impact, the plane slows to about 171 mph. At 500 feet and 34 seconds before impact, the plane is traveling at about 154 mph, and at 200 feet and 16 seconds before impact, the plane is traveling at 136 mph.
— EIGHT SECONDS OUT ... at an altitude of 125 feet, the throttles began moving forward. The plane is traveling at about 129 mph.
— SEVEN SECONDS OUT ... the crew asks to increase its air speed.
— FOUR SECONDS OUT ... the stick shaker, a yolk the pilots hold, begins shaking, indicating the plane could stall.
— THREE SECONDS OUT ... the plane is traveling at 119 mph, the slowest speed recorded by the flight data recorder. That is 39 mph below the approximately 158 mph it should have been going as it crossed the runway. The engines are at 50 percent power and engine power is increasing.
— 1.5 SECONDS OUT ... the crew calls to abort the landing and go around for another try.
— CRASH ... the plane, traveling at 122 mph, hits a seawall. The controller declares an emergency. The pilots talk to air traffic control and emergency vehicles are deployed.
Authorities also reviewed the initial rescue efforts after fire officials acknowledged that one of their trucks may have run over one of the two Chinese teenagers killed in the crash at San Francisco International Airport. The students were the accident's only fatalities.
National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Deborah Hersman said investigators watched airport surveillance video to determine whether an emergency vehicle hit one of the students. But they have not reached any firm conclusions. A coroner said he would need at least two weeks to rule in the matter.
The students had been in the rear of the aircraft, where many of the most seriously injured passengers were seated, Hersman said.
The NTSB also said part of the jet's tail section was found in San Francisco Bay, and debris from the seawall was carried several hundred feet down the runway, indicating the plane hit the seawall on its approach.
Investigators have said Flight 214 was flying "significantly below" its target speed during approach when the crew tried to abort the landing just before the plane smashed onto the runway. Authorities do not know yet whether the pilot's inexperience with the Boeing 777 and landing it at San Francisco's airport played a role.
The airline acknowledged Monday in Seoul that the pilot at the controls had flown that type of plane for only a short time and had never before landed one at that airport.
Asiana spokeswoman Lee Hyomin said pilot Lee Gang-guk had logged nearly 10,000 hours operating other planes but had only 43 hours in the 777, a plane she said he was still getting used to.
It's not unusual for veteran pilots to learn about new aircraft by flying with more experienced colleagues. Another pilot on the flight, Lee Jeong-min, had 12,390 hours of flying experience, including 3,220 hours on the 777, according to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport in South Korea.
Lee Jeong-min was the deputy pilot helping Lee Gang-guk get accustomed to the 777, according to Asiana Airlines.
It was unclear whether the other two pilots were in the cockpit, which in the Boeing 777 typically seats four. But that would be standard procedure at most airlines at the end of a long international flight.
NTSB lead investigator Bill English said pilot interviews were going slowly because of the need for translation. The interviews began only after agents from the Korean Aviation and Rail Accident Investigation Board arrived from South Korea.
New details of the investigation have also raised questions about whether the pilots may have been so reliant on automated cockpit systems that they failed to notice the plane's airspeed had dropped dangerously low, aviation safety experts and other airline pilots said.
Information gleaned from the Boeing 777's flight-data recorders revealed a jet that appeared to be descending normally until the last half-minute before impact.
The autopilot was switched off at about 1,600 feet as the plane began its final descent, according to an account of the last 82 seconds of flight provided by Hersman.
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This aerial photo shows a United Airlines plane sitting on the adjacent runway next to the wreckage of the Asiana Flight 214 airplane after it crashed at the San Francisco International Airport in San Francisco, Saturday, July 6, 2013.
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Deborah Hersman of the National Transportation Safety Board speaks at a news conference , Monday, July 8, 2013 in South San Francisco, Calif. An Asiana Airlines Boeing 777 crashed upon landing Saturday, July 6, at San Francisco International Airport, and two of the 307 passengers aboard were killed.