Asiana pilots appeared unaware of speed until too late

The pilots of the Asiana Boeing 777 that crashed in San Francisco appeared to be unaware the plane was flying too slowly until just seconds before the aircraft slammed into the ground.

An Asiana Airlines flight taxis by the wreckage of Asiana Airlines flight 214 at San Francisco International Airport. (AFP/Justin Sullivan)

An Asiana Airlines flight taxis by the wreckage of Asiana Airlines flight 214 at San Francisco International Airport. (AFP/Justin Sullivan)

SAN FRANCISCO: The pilots of the Asiana Boeing 777 that crashed in San Francisco appeared to be unaware the plane was flying too slowly until just seconds before the aircraft slammed into the ground.

National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) chief Deborah Hersman said Thursday that analysis of cockpit voice recorders showed no talk of speed during the plane’s doomed approach until it was 100 feet from the ground.

Nine seconds before impact, a call was made to increase speed. Two different members of the cockpit crew then made separate requests to abort the landing, three seconds and 1.5 seconds before the crash, Hersman said.

“There is no mention of speed until about nine seconds until impact,” Hersman told a news briefing.

The NTSB had previously revealed the plane’s speed had dipped to 103 knots three seconds before the crash — sharply below the target landing speed of 137 knots at the threshold of the runway.

Two people died and more than 180 were injured when Asiana flight 214 crashed on Saturday after clipping a seawall short of the runway, skidding out of control, shredding the tail of the plane and catching fire.

The NTSB has steadfastly shied away from apportioning blame for the crash, insisting it is too early to draw conclusions as it sifts through a mountain of recorded data and evidence gleaned from interviews with flight crew.

Hersman meanwhile confirmed Thursday that all of the aircraft’s automated flight systems had been working correctly during the flight.

“There is no anomalous behaviour of the autopilot, flight director and auto-throttles based on the FDR (flight data recorder) data reviewed to this date,” Hersman said.

The NTSB chief also played down suggestions that a mysterious “light” seen by the plane’s pilot in the approach had played any part in the crash.

“The pilot flying told the NTSB that at about 500 hundred feet … he observed a bright point source of light that could have been a reflection of the sun but he wasn’t sure,” Hersman said.

“The light source was straight in front of the airplane but not on the runway. He briefly looked away from the light and then he looked into the cockpit and he stated that he did not think that the light affected his vision because he could see the flight control instruments and he was able to look at the speed at that time.

“Neither of the other two flight crew members mentioned this light during their interviews. And in the review of the CVR (cockpit voice recorder), there is no discussion of the light.”

Source AFP

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