Pilot in SF crash had little experience with 777's - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

Pilot in SF crash had little experience with 777's

Photos from NTSB Photos from NTSB

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - The pilot at the controls of an Asiana plane that crashed landed was guiding a Boeing 777 into the San Francisco airport for the first time, and tried but failed to abort the landing after coming in too slow to set down safely, aviation and airline officials said Sunday.

It was unclear if the pilot's inexperience with the aircraft and airport played a role in Saturday's crash. Officials were investigating whether the airport or plane's equipment could have also malfunctioned.

Also Sunday, San Mateo County Coroner Robert Foucrault said he was investigating whether t one of the two teenage passengers killed Saturday actually survived the crash but was run over by a rescue vehicle rushing to aid victims fleeing the burning aircraft. Remarkably, 305 of 307 passengers survived the crash and more than a third didn't even require hospitalization. Only a small number were critically injured.

Deborah Hersman, head of the National Transportation Safety Board, said the slow speed of Flight 214 in the final approach triggered a warning that the jetliner could stall, and an effort was made to abort the landing but the plane crashed barely a second later.

At a news conference, Hersman disclosed the aircraft was traveling at speeds well below the target landing speed of 137 knots per hour, or 157 mph.

"We're not talking about a few knots," she said.

Hersman described the frantic final seconds of the flight as the pilots struggled to avoid crashing.

Seven seconds before the crash, pilots recognized the need to increase speed, she said, basing her comments on an evaluation of the cockpit voice and flight data recorders that contain hundreds of different types of information on what happened to the plane. Three seconds later, the aircraft's stick shaker - a piece of safety equipment that warns pilots of an impending stall - went off. The normal response to a stall warning is to boost speed and Hersman said the throttles were fired and the engines appeared to respond normally.

At 1.5 seconds before impact, there was a call from the crew to abort the landing.

The details confirmed what survivors and other witnesses said they saw: an aircraft that seemed to be flying too slowly just before its tail apparently clipped a seawall at the end of the runway and the nose slammed down.

Pilots normally try to land at the target speed, in this case 137 knots, plus an additional five more knots, said Bob Coffman, an American Airlines captain who has flown 777s. He said the briefing raises an important question: "Why was the plane going so slow?"

The plane's Pratt & Whitney engines were on idle and the pilots were flying under visual flight rules, Hersman said. Under visual flight procedures in the Boeing 777, a wide-body jet, the autopilot would typically have been turned off while the automatic throttle, which regulates speed, would been on until the plane had descended to 500 feet in altitude, Coffman said. At that point, pilots would normally check their airspeed before switching off the autothrottle to continue a "hand fly" approach, he said.

There was no indication in the discussions between the pilots and the air traffic controllers that there were problems with the aircraft.

The airline said Monday in Seoul that the pilot at the controls had little experience flying that type of plane and was landing one for the first time at that airport.

Asiana spokeswoman Lee Hyomin said that Lee Gang-guk, who was at the controls, had nearly 10,000 hours flying other planes but only 43 in the 777, a plane she said he still was getting used to flying. Another pilot on the flight, Lee Jeong-min, had about 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 was the deputy pilot, tasked with helping Lee Gang-guk get accustomed to the 777, according to Asiana Airlines.

Asiana spokeswoman Lee Hyomin said that Lee Gang-guk was trying to get used to the 777 during Saturday's crash landing. She says the pilot had nearly 10,000 hours flying other planes but had only 43 hours on the 777.

Among the questions investigators are trying to answer was what, if any, role the deactivation of a ground-based landing guidance system due to airport construction played in the crash. Such systems help pilots land, especially at airports like San Francisco where fog can make landing challenging. The conditions Saturday were nearly perfect, with sunny skies and light winds.

The flight originated in Shanghai, China, stopped over in Seoul, South Korea, before making the nearly 11-hour trip to San Francisco. The South Korea-based airline said four South Korean pilots were on board, three of whom were described as "skilled."

Among the travelers were citizens of China, South Korean, the United States, Canada, India, Japan, Vietnam and France. There were at least 70 Chinese students and teachers heading to summer camps, according to Chinese authorities.

Fei Xiong, a Chinese passenger , was traveling to California so she could take her 8-year-old son to Disneyland. The pair was sitting in the back half of the plane. Xiong said her son sensed something was wrong.

"My son told me: 'The plane will fall down, it's too close to the sea,'" she said. "I told him: 'Baby, it's OK, we'll be fine.'"

When the plane hit the ground, oxygen masks dropped down, said Xu Da, a product manager at an Internet company in Hangzhou, China, who was sitting with his wife and teenage son near the back of the plane. When he stood up, he said he could see sparking - perhaps from exposed electrical wires.

He turned and could see the tail where the galley was torn away, leaving a gaping hole through which they could see the runway. Once on the tarmac, they watched the plane catch fire, and firefighters hose it down.

"I just feel lucky," said Xu, whose family suffered some cuts and have neck and back pain.

In the chaotic moments after the landing, when baggage was tumbling from the overhead bins onto passengers and people all around her were screaming, Wen Zhang grabbed her 4-year-old son, who hit the seat in front of him and broke his leg.

Spotting a hole at the back of the jumbo jet where the bathroom had been, she carried her boy to safety.

"I had no time to be scared," she said.

Authorities immediately closed the airport and rescuers rushed to the scene. A United Airlines pilot radioed the control tower, saying: "We see people ... that need immediate attention. They are alive and walking around."

"Think you said people are just walking outside the airplane right now?" the controller replied.

"Yes," answered the pilot of United Flight 885. "Some people, it looks like, are struggling."

At the crash scene, police officers knives up to crew members inside the burning wreckage so they could cut away passengers' seat belts. Passengers jumped down emergency slides, escaping from billowing smoke that rose high above the bay. Some passengers who escaped doused themselves with water from the bay, presumably to cool burns, authorities said.

By the time the flames were out, much of the top of the fuselage had burned away. The tail section was gone, with pieces of it scattered across the beginning of the runway.

Foucrault, the coroner, said senior San Francisco Fire Department officials notified him and his staff at the crash site on Saturday that one of the 16-year-olds who was killed may have been struck on the runaway. Foucrault said an autopsy he expects to be completed by Monday will involve determining whether the girl's death was caused by injuries suffered in the crash or "a secondary incident."

He said he did not get a close enough look at the victims on Saturday to know whether they had external injuries.

Foucrault said one of the bodies was found on the tarmac near where the plane's tail broke off when it slammed into the runway. The other was found on the left side of the plane about 30 feet away from where the jetliner came to rest after it skidded down the runway.

___

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Police officers threw utility knives up to crew members inside the burning wreckage of Asiana Airlines Flight 214 so they could cut away passengers' seat belts. Passengers jumped down emergency slides, escaping from thick billowing smoke.

And amid the chaos, some urged fellow passengers to keep calm, even as flames tore through the Boeing 777's fuselage.

As investigators try to determine what caused the crash of Flight 214 that killed two passengers Saturday at San Francisco International Airport, the accident left many wondering how nearly 305 of the 307 passengers and crew members were able to make it out alive.

"It's miraculous we survived," said passenger Vedpal Singh, who had a fractured collarbone and whose arm was in a sling.

Investigators took the flight data recorder to Washington, D.C., overnight to begin examining its contents for clues to the last moments of the plane before the crash, officials said. They also plan to interview the pilots, the crew and passengers.

"I think we're very thankful that the numbers were not worse when it came to fatalities and injuries," said National Transportation Safety Board chief Deborah Hersman on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday. "It could have been much worse."

While authorities have said very little about the investigation at this early stage, clues have emerged in witness accounts of the planes approach and video of the wreckage, leading one aviation expert to say the aircraft may have approached the runway too low.

Mike Barr, a former military pilot and accident investigator who teaches aviation safety at the University of Southern California, said it appeared that something on the plane in its low approach may have caught the runway lip - the seawall at the end of the runway.

San Francisco is one of several airports around the country that border bodies of water that have walls at the end of their runways to prevent planes that overrun a runway from ending up in the water.

Since the plane was about to land, its landing gear would have already been down, Barr said. It's possible the landing gear or the tail of the plane hit the seawall, he said. If that happened, it would effectively slam the plane into the runway, he said.

Noting that some witnesses reported hearing the plane's engines rev up just before the crash, Barr said that would be consistent with a pilot who realized at the last minute that the plane was too low and was increasing power to the engines to try to increase altitude.

Barr said he could think of no reason why a plane would come in to land that low.

"When you heard that explosion, that loud boom and you saw the black smoke ... you just thought, my god, everybody in there is gone," said Ki Siadatan, who lives a few miles away from the airport and watched the plane's "wobbly" and "a little bit out of control" approach from his balcony.

"My initial reaction was I don't see how anyone could have made it," he said.

Inside the plane, Singh, who was sitting in the middle of the aircraft with his family, said there was no forewarning from the pilot or any crew members before the plane touched down hard and he heard a loud sound.

"We knew something was horrible wrong," said a visibly shaken Singh. He said the plane went silent before people tried to get out anyway they could. His 15-year-old son said luggage tumbled from the overhead bins.

Passenger Benjamin Levy said it looked to him that the plane was flying too low and too close to the bay as it approached the runway. Levy, who was sitting in an emergency exit row, said he felt the pilot try to lift the jet up before it crashed.

He said he thought the maneuver might have saved some lives. "Everybody was screaming. I was trying to usher them out," he recalled of the first seconds after the landing. "I said: 'Stay calm, stop screaming, help each other out, don't push.'"

The flight originated in Shanghai, China, and stopped over in Seoul, South Korea, before making the nearly 11-hour trip to San Francisco, airport officials said. The airline said there were 16 crew members aboard and 291 passengers. Thirty of the passengers were children.

San Francisco Fire Department Chief Joanne Hayes-White said the two who died were found on "the exterior" of the plane. "Having surveyed that area, we're lucky that there hasn't been a greater loss," she said.

Airport spokesman Doug Yakel said 49 people were critically injured and 132 had less significant injuries.

South Korean government said the passengers included 141 Chinese, 77 South Koreans, 61 Americans, three Canadians, three from India, one Japanese, one Vietnamese and one from France, while the nationalities of the remaining three haven't been confirmed.

Chinese state media identified the dead as two 16-year-old girls who were middle school students in China's eastern Zhejiang province. China Central Television cited a fax from Asiana Airlines to the Jiangshan city government. They were identified as Ye Mengyuan and Wang Linjia.

At least 70 Chinese students and teachers were on the plane heading to summer camps, according to education authorities in China.

Asiana President Yoon Young-doo said at a televised news conference that it will take time to determine the cause of the crash. But when asked about the possibility of engine or mechanical problems, he said he doesn't believe they could have been the cause.

He said the plane was bought in 2006 but didn't provide further details. Asiana officials later said the plane was also built that year.

Yoon also bowed and offered an apology, "I am bowing my head and extending my deep apology" to the passengers, their families and the South Korean people over the crash, he said.

Four pilots were aboard the plane and they rotated on a two-person shift during the flight, according to The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport in South Korea. The two who piloted the plane at the time of crash were Lee Jeong-min and Lee Gang-guk.

Yoon, the Asiana president, described the pilots as "skilled," saying three had logged more than 10,000 hours each of flight time. He said the fourth had put in almost that much time, but officials later corrected that to say the fourth had logged nearly 5,000 hours. All four are South Koreans.

Asiana is a South Korean airline, second in size to national carrier Korean Air. It has recently tried to expand its presence in the United States, and joined the Star Alliance, which is anchored in the U.S. by United Airlines.

The 777-200 is a long-range plane from Boeing. The twin-engine aircraft is often used for flights from one continent to another because it can travel 12 hours or more without refueling.

The most notable accident involving a 777 occurred on Jan. 17, 2008 at Heathrow Airport in London. British Airways Flight 28 landed hard about 1,000 feet short of the runway and slid onto the start of the runway. The impact broke the 777-200's landing gear. There were 47 injuries, but no fatalities.

___

 

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - An Asiana Airlines flight from Seoul, South Korea, 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.

One person was unaccounted for from among the 307 passengers and crew, said airport spokesman Doug Yakel. He said 181 people were taken to local hospitals. There were 291 passengers and 16 crew members.

"This is a work in progress," San Francisco Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-Whites said, adding the investigation has been turned over to the FBI and that terrorism has been ruled out. She said at least 48 people were initially transported from the scene to area hospitals.

The Federal Aviation Administration said Flight 214 crashed while landing before noon PDT. A video clip posted to YouTube showed smoke coming from a jet on the tarmac. Passengers could be seen jumping down the emergency slides.

Television footage showed the top of the fuselage was burned away and the entire tail was gone. One engine appeared to have broken away. Pieces of the tail were strewn about the runway. Emergency responders could be seen walking inside the burned-out wreckage.

It wasn't immediately clear what happened to the plane as it was landing, but some eyewitnesses said the aircraft seemed to lose control and that the tail may have hit the ground.

Stephanie Turner saw the plane going down and the rescue slides deploy, but returned to her hotel room before seeing any passengers get off the jet, she told ABC News. Turner said when she first saw the flight she noticed right away that the angle of its approach seemed strange.

"I mean we were sure that we had just seen a lot of people die. It was awful," she said. "And it looked like the plane had completely broken apart. There were flames and smoke just billowing."

Kate Belding was out jogging just before 11:30 a.m. on a path the water from the airport when she noticed the plane approaching the runway in a way that "just didn't look like it was coming in quite right."

"Then all of a sudden I saw what looked like a cloud of dirt puffing up and then there was a big bang and it kind of looked like the plane maybe bounced (as it neared the ground)," she said. "I couldn't really tell what happened, but you saw the wings going up and (in) a weird angle."

"Not like it was cartwheeling," she said, but rather as though the wings were almost swaying from side to side.

Doug Yakel, a spokesman for the airport, said he did not yet know how many passengers were aboard the flight. "We also don't have any information at this time to the status of those passengers," he said at a brief news conference.

San Francisco General Hospital spokeswoman Rachael Kagan said the adult patients range in age from 20 to their 40s. It was not immediately clear the ages of the children.

San Francisco-area broadcasters KNTV, KCBS and KTVU have reported that there were fatalities in Saturday's crash, but The Associated Press contacted police, fire and coroner's officials and was unable to confirm any deaths.

A call to the airline seeking comment wasn't immediately returned.

The National Transportation Safety Board said it was sending a team of investigators to San Francisco to probe the crash. NTSB spokeswoman Kelly Nantel said Saturday that NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman would head the team.

Boeing said it was preparing to provide technical assistance to the NTSB.

Numerous flights headed to San Francisco were diverted to other airports. A United Airlines flight bound for San Francisco was sent to Los Angeles airport, and passengers were told the San Francisco airport would be closed for at least three hours Saturday afternoon.

Asiana is a South Korean airline, second in size to national carrier Korean Air. It has recently tried to expand its presence in the United States, and joined the Star Alliance, which is anchored in the U.S. by United Airlines.

The 777-200 is a long-range plane from Boeing. The twin-engine aircraft is one of the world's most popular long-distance planes, often used for flights of 12 hours or more, from one continent to another. The airline's website says its 777s can carry between 246 to 300 passengers.

The flight was 10 hours and 23 minutes, according to FlightAware, a flight tracking service. The aircraft is configured to seat 295 passengers, it said.

The Boeing 777 is a smaller, wide-body jet that can travel long distances without refueling and is typically used for long flights over water.

The most notable accident involving a 777 occurred on Jan. 17, 2008 at Heathrow Airport in London. British Airways Flight 28 landed hard about 1,000 feet short of the runway and slid onto the start of the runway. The impact broke the 777-200's landing gear. There were 47 injuries, but no fatalities.

An investigation revealed ice pellets that had formed in the fuel were clogging the fuel-oil heat exchanger, blocking fuel from reaching the plane's engines. The Rolls-Royce Trent 800 series engines that were used on the plane were then redesigned.

Bill Waldock, an expert on aviation accident investigation, said he was reminded of the Heathrow accident as he watched video of Saturday's crash. "Of course, there is no indication directly that's what happened here," he said. "That's what the investigation is going to have to find out."

The Asiana 777 "was right at the landing phase and for whatever reason the landing went wrong," said Waldock, director of the Embry-Riddle University accident investigation laboratory in Prescott, Ariz. "For whatever reason, they appeared to go low on approach and then the airplane pitched up suddenly to an extreme attitude, which could have been the pilots trying to keep it out of the ground."

The last time a large U.S. airline lost a plane in a fatal crash was an American Airlines Airbus A300 taking off from John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York in 2001.

Smaller airlines have had crashes since then. The last fatal U.S. crash was a Continental Express flight operated by Colgan Air, which crashed into a house near Buffalo, N.Y. on Feb. 12, 2009. The crash killed all 49 people on board and one man in a house.

Flying remains one of the safest forms of transportation: There are about two deaths worldwide for every 100 million passengers on commercial flights, according to an Associated Press analysis of government accident data.

Just a decade ago, passengers were 10 times as likely to die when flying on an American plane. The risk of death was even greater during the start of the jet age, with 1,696 people dying - 133 out of every 100 million passengers - from 1962 to 1971. The figures exclude acts of terrorism.

Asia remains one of the fastest-growing regions for aviation in the world. Even with slowing economies in Japan and China, airlines there saw 3.7 percent more passengers than a year ago, according to the International Air Transport Association.

Finding enough experienced pilots to meet a growing number of flights is becoming a problem. A 2012 report by aircraft manufacturer Boeing said the industry would need 460,000 new commercial airline pilots in the next two decades - with 185,000 of them needed in Asia alone.

"The Asia-Pacific region continues to present the largest projected growth in pilot demand," the report said.

___

 

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA (WXOW) - An Asiana Airlines flight from Seoul, South Korea, crashed while landing at San Francisco International Airport on Saturday, forcing passengers to jump down the emergency inflatable slides to safety. It was not immediately known whether there were any injuries.

The Boeing 777 was supposed to land on runway 28 left at the airport, said Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Laura Brown. She said the sequence of events was still unclear, but it appeared the plane landed and then crashed.

A video clip posted to YouTube shows smoke coming from a silver-colored jet on the tarmac. Passengers could be seen jumping down the inflatable emergency slides. Television footage showed debris strewn about the tarmac and pieces of the plane lying on the runway.

Fire trucks had sprayed a white fire retardant on the wreckage.

Asiana is a South Korean airline, second in size to national carrier Korean Air. It has recently tried to expand its presence in the United States, and joined the oneWorld alliance, anchored by American Airlines and British Airways.

The 777-200 is a long-range plane from Boeing. The twin-engine aircraft is one of the world's most popular long-distance planes, often used for flights of 12 hours or more, from one continent to another. The airline's website says its 777s can carry between 246 to 300 passengers.

The last time a large U.S. airline lost a plane in a fatal crash was an American Airlines Airbus A300 taking off from JFK in 2001.

 

 

 

SAN FRANCISCO (WXOW) -- An Asiana Airlines flight crashed Saturday while landing at a San Francisco airport, according to a federal aviation official.

It's not immediately known whether there were any injuries. 

A clip posted on YouTube shows passengers jumping down inflatable emergency slides. It also shows smoke coming from a silver-colored jet on the tarmac. 

The FAA says the plane is a Boeing 777. Asiana Airlines is based in Seoul, South Korea. It's website says the Boeing 777 can carry between 246 and 300 passengers. 

Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 WorldNow and WXOW. All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy, Terms of Service and Mobile Privacy Policy & Terms of Service.

Persons with disabilities who need assistance with issues relating to the content of this station's public inspection file should contact Administrative Assistant Theresa Wopat at 507-895-9969. Questions or concerns relating to the accessibility of the FCC's online public file system should be directed to the FCC at 888-225-5322, at 888-835-5322 (TTY) or at fccinfo@fcc.gov.