Two days after Asiana Airlines Flight 214 tattered across the San Francisco runway and burst into flames, killing two teenagers and injuring 180 passengers, the investigators gave no indication of mechanical or external problems, suggesting the cockpit holds vital clues.
Passengers inside the flight have reported all was normal until they heard a loud bang. All of a sudden there was a lot of smoke and debris coming from the back of the plane. It has been noted that the conditions in San Francisco were perfect, potentially ruling out any sort of weather interference.
There are many uncertainties surrounding this crash, however, Asiana Flight 214 reported that they had the airport in sight and were cleared for visual approach. 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.
Investigators said Asiana Airlines Flight 214 was traveling “significantly below” the target speed during its approach and that the crew tried to abort the landing just before it smashed onto the runway. What they don’t yet know is whether the pilot’s inexperience with the Boeing 777 and at San Francisco’s airport played a role. Officials said the probe will also focus on whether the airport or plane’s equipment also could have malfunctioned.
At impact the plane’s airspeed was about 106 knots, well below the 137 knots it should have been going as it crossed the runway said Deborah Hersman, chairwoman of the National Transportation Safety Board. In laymen terms, the Asiana Airlines jet was traveling 39 mph below the target speed of 158 mph just seconds before it crashed.
New questions have surfaced about the training of pilots for fast growing foreign airlines as federal crash investigators prepare to interview the pilots of Asiana Flight 214. The South Korean Transport Ministry said the pilot was in “transition training” to become certified as a captain on the Boeing 777. Saturday was the first time he had tried to land a 777 at San Francisco International Airport.
Asiana identified the pilot as Lee Kang-kuk and said he had logged 43 hours flying the 777 over nine flights. It takes 60 hours and 10 flights to be considered fully qualified, the airline has reported. When a pilot learns a new type of aircraft, the status before full qualification is known as transition training.
Lee had 9,700 hours of experience flying other jetliners — the Airbus A320 and the Boeing 737 and 747, Asiana said. The co-pilot had more than 3,000 hours on the 777, a twin-engine, wide-body jet, the airline said. Asked on TODAY whether the pilot’s inexperience landing the 777 at that airport might have been a factor, Hersman said investigators would consider it, but she added that it’s not unusual for pilots to make their first landing at an airport and transoceanic flight often have extra pilots.
At the crash scene, police officers joined the action by giving knives 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. 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.
Amazingly, 305 of 307 passengers survived the crash and more than a third didn’t require hospitalization. Only a small number were critically injured. The two casualties may not have been directly caused by the crash; that’s still inconclusive. The deaths, even still, were the first in the 18 years that the 777 has been in service.
Hersman told reporters she hoped to have more detail about the crash after the interviews have taken place with the four pilots.
By: Cherese Jackson (Virginia)