GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

July 9, 2013

Crash investigators turn to cockpit decisions


Associated Press

---- — SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Investigators trying to understand why Asiana Airlines Flight 214 crash landed focused yesterday on decisions made in the cockpit of the giant jet, where an experienced pilot was learning his way around a new aircraft and fellow pilots were supposed to be monitoring his actions.

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 two fatalities.

National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Deborah Hersman said investigators watched airport surveillance video to determine whether an emergency vehicle ran over one of students. But they have not reached any firm conclusions.

The students had been seated 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 yesterday 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 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 still was getting used to flying.

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 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.