No sign automatic equipment failed in San Francisco crash: NTSB

SAN FRANCISCO Thu Jul 11, 2013 8:55pm EDT

Asiana Airlines Boeing 777 is engulfed in smoke on the tarmac after a crash landing at San Francisco International Airport in California July 6, 2013 in this handout photo provided by passenger Eugene Anthony Rah, released to Reuters on July 8, 2013. REUTERS/Eugene Anthony Rah/Handout via Reuters

Asiana Airlines Boeing 777 is engulfed in smoke on the tarmac after a crash landing at San Francisco International Airport in California July 6, 2013 in this handout photo provided by passenger Eugene Anthony Rah, released to Reuters on July 8, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Eugene Anthony Rah/Handout via Reuters

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - There are no signs of failure of the autopilot or other key automatic flight equipment on the Asiana plane that crashed in San Francisco last week, the head of National Transportation Safety Board said on Thursday.

"There is no anomalous behavior of the autopilot, of the flight director, and of the auto-throttles, based on the FDR (flight data recorder) data reviewed to date," NTSB Chairwoman Deborah Hersman told a news conference, referring to the flight data recorder from the Boeing 777.

The plane, carrying 291 passengers and 16 crew from Seoul to San Francisco, hit a seawall in front of the runway on Saturday, killing two passengers and injuring 180 others.

The tail section of an Asiana Airlines plane hit a seawall in front of the runway at San Francisco International airport, and initial information from the NTSB investigation shows that it was flying much too slowly in the final stages of the approach.

The plane's pilots have said in interviews with the NTSB that an electronic control known as an auto-throttle had been set to keep the plane flying at the proper speed, according to Hersman, and it remains unclear why the jet lost speed and why the pilots failed to notice the problem.

Hersman said the cockpit voice recorder showed that none of the three pilots on the flight deck said anything about speed until about 9 seconds before the crash. One of the pilots did raise a concern about "sink rate," or the speed of descent, prior to that, but Hersman did not provide further details.

The charred wreckage of the plane will be cut up and removed from the airport runway beginning on Thursday evening, Hersman said.

A final report on the crash will likely come in about a year.

In five detailed press briefings since the crash, Hersman has painted a picture of a flight crew that inexplicably failed to correct a doomed approach as the plane came in too low, too slow and off-center on a clear day with little wind. She has declined to speculate on the cause of the crash.

The briefings have drawn criticism from an airline pilots union and others, who say the release of so much information from flight recorders and other sources at an early stage of the investigation has unfairly suggested the pilots were at fault.

The pilot flying the plane when it crashed was still in training for the Boeing 777, and the instructor pilot who was in charge of the aircraft was on his first flight as a trainer.

(Reporting by Gerry Shih and Jonathan Weber; Editing by Peter Henderson and Sandra Maler)

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Comments (3)
Yamayoko wrote:
Did the pilots set the wrong data during the flight ? NTSB had not confirmed this. Pilots who first fly a Boeing 777 or first time to SFO airport should do so without passengers.

Jul 11, 2013 9:59pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
SKYDRIFTER wrote:
The ‘standard’ cockpit and visual indications would have been enough to “normally” warn the pilots that they were in trouble – early enough to make the necessary corrections; including a go-around if necessary.

Why didn’t the pilots either see that they were in trouble; and why didn’t they react? These were experienced and competent pilots.

By now, the NTSB should be citing the possibility of crew fatigue. That would point the finger at management; however politically inconvenient.

While crew rest requirements ultimately require the hiring and training of more pilots (with associated costs), killing passengers to save money should NOT be an option.

At least in the USA, the reality is that the FAA will give the airlines whatever leeway they want to make more money. Allowing airlines to cut corners on crew rest is common.

While the NTSB has been on the FAA’s back for years about major safety problems; the NTSB has no authority to force the FAA to do anything. Thankfully, technology has played a major role in the airline safety record.

Even this Asiana 777 could have been “auto-landed;” IF the Flight Management Computer had been set up properly. However, the cockpit automation has the trade-off of limiting the pilots’ hands-on flying experience/skills. Thus, pilots will typically take any opportunity to hand-fly their aircraft. This was such a case; that went badly wrong – why?

Jul 11, 2013 10:50pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
WeAreLosingIt wrote:
OK OK so it wasn’t the throttle….it was, um…um,,,a LASER in my eyes! Yeah, that’s it – a LASER IN MY EYES !!!!!

Jul 12, 2013 10:01pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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