| NEW YORK, July 9
NEW YORK, July 9 The world's largest pilot union
rebuked the federal agency handling the investigation of
Saturday's passenger jet crash in San Francisco, saying it had
released too much information too quickly, which could lead to
wrong conclusions and compromise safety.
Releasing data from the flight's black boxes without full
investigative information for context "encourages wild
speculation" about the cause of the crash, the Air Line Pilots
Association International said in a statement late on Monday.
The criticism came after the National Transportation Safety
Board gave a detailed account of the flight's final minutes in a
regular daily update on the crash.
The NTSB is the lead investigator of Asiana Airlines flight
214, a Boeing 777 that broke apart and burned after
crash-landing short of the runway. Two teenage Chinese
passengers were killed, and more than 180 other people were
injured in the first fatal accident involving a 777 since the
plane was introduced in 1995.
Answering ALPA's criticism, NTSB spokeswoman Kelly Nantel
said the agency routinely provided factual updates during
"For the public to have confidence in the investigative
process, transparency and accuracy are critical," Nantel said.
NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman told reporters on Monday that
the plane was significantly below its target landing speed for
more than half a minute before impact. That information expanded
on data Hersman released Sunday that indicated the plane was
below speed during the final seven seconds.
Hersman said the plane was traveling at 134 knots, or
nautical miles per hour, 34 seconds before impact, well below
the target landing speed of 137 knots. The plane continued to
slow down, and when it hit the ground, the speed was 106 knots,
Hersman cautioned on Monday that the NTSB and other agencies
were still interviewing the four pilots from the flight, and she
said it was premature to draw conclusions. She also said the
flight data recorder would be cross-checked with air traffic
control logs, radar and the cockpit voice recorder.
ALPA, the Washington, D.C.-based union that represents more
than 50,000 pilots in the United States and Canada, said the
NTSB statements gave the impression that the agency had "already
determined probable cause."
Asiana Airlines, based in South Korea, has said the pilot at
the controls, Lee Kang-kuk, was still training on Boeing 777
jets and his supervisor was making his first flight as a
trainer. Lee had 43 hours of experience flying the long-range
jet, the airline said.
On Tuesday, Hersman said in a TV interview that the agency
wanted to understand the pilot's experience and would release
more details at a briefing later in the day.
Aviation experts said the low speeds during the plane's
final approach suggested that the pilots probably had time to
realize the plane was stalling and to react.
Passengers also have reported that the plane was rolling
from side to side during the approach, which in calm winds is
another indication of stalling, said Hans Weber, president of
TECOP International Inc and an aerospace consultant who has been
an adviser to the FAA.
As soon as a plane goes below the minimum speed for a
landing, there should be a vibration in the controls meant to
warn pilots of a stall, he said.
"If they had commanded full throttle at that point," Weber
said, "there's a good chance they would have made it."