Asiana Airlines said Monday that the pilot in control of the Boeing 777 that crashed in San Francisco Saturday had little experience flying that type of plane and was landing one for the first time at that airport.
Asiana spokeswoman Lee Hyomin told the Associated Press Monday that Lee Gang-guk was trying to get used to the 777 during Saturday's crash landing. She says the pilot had nearly 10,000 hours flying other planes, including the Boeing 747, but had only 43 hours on the 777.
Hyomin told Reuters that co-pilot Lee Jeong-min has 3,220 hours of flying experience with the Boeing 777 and a total of 12,387 hours of flying experience, and was helping his colleague with the landing.
In all, four pilots were on the plane and worked in rotating shifts during the 10-and-a-half hour flight from Seoul. The pilots were described by Asiana chief executive Yoon Young-doo Sunday as veterans, with more than 10,000 hours of flight experience. "And one pilot has 9,000, almost 10,000 hours' experience," he said.
On Sunday, a National Transportation Safety Board official said a preliminary review of recordings taken from the black boxes of an Asiana Boeing 777 flight that crash-landed into San Francisco International Airport Saturday showed that the plane was traveling "significantly" slower than normal on its descent before the crew called for more acceleration and another chance to land.
The crash killed two people and injured at least 182. The plane, traveling from South Korea slammed into the runway on Saturday morning, breaking off its tail and catching fire before slumping to a stop that allowed some passengers to flee down emergency slides into thick smoke and a trail of debris. Firefighters doused the flames that burned through the fuselage with foam and water, and police officers on the ground threw utility knives up to crew members so they could cut the seat belts of those who remained trapped as rescue crews removed the injured.
NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman said during a press conference Sunday afternoon that flight crew on Asiana Airlines Flight 214 had a visible approach to the runway and put the plane's landing gear down, according to communications heard in the cockpit voice recorder.
Hersman said the plane's target speed for a landing was 137 knots (158 mph), and the crew had no discussion of anomalies or concerns with the way the plane was coming in for the landing.
But seven seconds before the plane hit into a seawall, one of the crew members called on the pilots to increase speed. Information from the flight data recorder said the plane was going below the target landing speed, and the engine throttles advanced.
Four seconds before impact, a "stick shaker" – a device that emits an oral and physical warning to the crew that the plane is about to stall – sounded off, Hersman said.
The crew then asked to abort the landing and make another attempt 1.5 seconds before impact.
Hersman said there were no reports of wind conditions or weather playing a role in the crash landing.
The black box recordings were taken from the plane wreckage and analyzed at a lab in Washington D.C.
Authorities are also looking into what role the shutdown of glide slope -- a pilot navigational aid -- had in the crash.
Earlier Sunday, Hersman said on CBS' "Face the Nation" that the system is a ground-based aid that helps pilots stay on course while landing and it has been shut down at the San Francisco airport since June. The pilots, however, were notified before the crash that the system wasn't available.
Aircraft security experts told Reuters that the glide slope system is not essential for routine landings, but it's not unusual for airports to disable them for maintenance reasons.
"The pilots would have had to rely solely on visual cues to fly the proper glide path to the runway, and not have had available to them the electronic information that they typically have even in good weather at most major airports," said Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, who crash landed a plane in New York's Hudson River in 2009, told a CBS news affiliate, according to Reuters.
"What that means is that then the automatic warnings that would occur in the cockpit when you deviate below the desired electronic path wouldn't have been available either. So we don't know yet if that's a factor in this particular situation, but that's certainly something they'll be looking at," he said.
An NTSB team arrived Sunday at the scene of the crash to investigate.
Hersman said the NTSB is currently focusing on gathering perishable information from the accident scene and getting the airport fully operational again.
San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee said at a news conference Saturday evening that all 291 passengers and 16 crew members onboard the plane had been accounted for, but officials said 182 people were taken to area hospitals. As of Sunday, 19 people remain hospitalized with six in critical condition, one being a child.
Dr. Margaret Knudson of the San Francisco General Hospital said among the 53 people they have treated, they have seen large numbers of abdominal injuries, some spinal fractures -- with a few causing paralysis -- and patients with head trauma.
She also said they were "surprised" to see a few patients with severe road rash, describing it as when someone crashes on a motorcycle without wearing leather.
"There's going to be many, many more surgeries to come," she added.
Joanne Hayes-White, the San Francisco Fire Department chief, said Sunday that it was "nothing short of a miracle that we had 123 people walk away from this." Hayes-White said there was major structural damage inside the plane, as some seats were buckled.
An Asiana airlines spokesperson told Reuters that the two passengers killed in the crash were Ye Meng Yuan and Wang Lin Jia, both 16-year-old students. Chinese state media said the students attended Jiangshan Middle School in eastern China.
Witnesses said that the plane appeared to sway back and forth, and kick up dust during the landing. Initial reports indicated that the plane's tail broke off from some impact. An aviation safety expert interviewed by the Associated Press suggested that part of the plane may have hit a seawall at the end of the runway.
2 dead in plane crash
182 people immediately taken to the hospital, 49 seriously injured
132 people treated at a triage
123 people found in the terminal uninjured
Benjamin Levy, who told KNTV he was aboard the flight, recalled approaching the runway "too low, too soon."
"We were maybe 5 meters, 10 meters above the water way still out of the landing area. And so when the pilot realized it, he put some more gas to try to correct and lift up the plane again, but it was too late. So we hit the runway pretty bad, and then we started going back up in the air again and then landed again pretty hard," Levy said.
Moments after the violent landing, some of the passengers were able to escape via inflatable ramps, while others were taken to area hospitals.
Vedpal Singh, who was sitting in the middle of the aircraft and survived the crash with his family, said there was no forewarning from the pilot or any crew members before the plane touched down hard and he heard a loud sound.
"We knew something was horrible wrong," said Singh, who suffered a fractured collarbone and had his arm in a sling.
"It's miraculous we survived," he said.
A visibly shaken Singh said the plane went silent before people tried to get out any way they could. His 15-year-old son said luggage tumbled from the overhead bins. The entire incident lasted about 10 seconds.
The flight originated in Shanghai, China, and stopped over in Seoul, South Korea, before coming to San Francisco, airport officials said. The airline said there were 16 crew members aboard and 291 passengers. South Korea's Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport said that the plane's passengers included 141 Chinese, 77 South Koreans, 61 Americans, three Canadians, three from India, one Japanese, one Vietnamese and one from France, while the nationalities of the remaining three haven't been confirmed. Thirty of the passengers were children.
David Eun, a Samsung executive who was aboard the flight, sent out an online message immediately after the landing.
"I just crash-landed at SFO," Eun said. "Tail ripped off. Most everyone seems fine. I'm OK."
Another survivor, 34-year-old Wen Zhang , said she could feel the plane's tail hit the ground and walked onto the tarmac with her injured son through a hole that opened up in the aircraft.
President Obama, who was at Camp David in Maryland, was informed of the crash and was being kept up to date by local, state and federal authorities, the White House said.
Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said she, her family and several colleagues had been scheduled for the flight but had switched at the last minute.
"Taking a minute to be thankful and explain what happened," Sandberg wrote in a Facebook post. "My family, colleagues Debbie Frost, Charlton Gholson and Kelly Hoffman and I were originally going to take the Asiana flight that just crash-landed."
TV news footage showed the top of the fuselage was burned away and the entire tail gone. One engine appeared to have broken away and pieces of the tail were strewn about the runway. Passengers could be seen jumping down the inflatable emergency slides. Fire trucks could be seen spraying white fire retardant on the wreckage.
South Korean President Park Geun-hye offered her condolences to the families of passengers and said her government would make all necessary efforts to help handle the aftermath, according to her spokeswoman Kim Haing.
"I offer my deep condolences to the families of the passengers who suffered from the unexpected Asiana plane crash," South Korean President Park Geun-hye said, according to her spokeswoman Kim Haing. Park said that the South Korean government will make all necessary efforts to help handle the aftermath, according to Kim.
Asiana is a South Korean airline, second in size to national carrier Korean Air. It has recently tried to expand its presence in the United States, and is a member of the Star Alliance, which is anchored in the U.S. by United Airlines.
The 777-200 is a long-range plane from Boeing. The twin-engine aircraft is one of the world's most popular long-distance planes, often used for flights of 12 hours or more, from one continent to another. It is a smaller, wide-body jet that can travel long distances without refueling and is typically used for long flights over water. The airline's website says its 777s can carry between 246 to 300 passengers.
A tweet from Boeing said the company's thoughts are with those affected by the crash. "Our thoughts are with everyone affected by today's incident at SFO," Boeing said on its Twitter account. "We stand ready to assist the NTSB."
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.
CORONER QUESTIONS WHETHER RESCUE VEHICLE HIT TEENS
A San Francisco-area coroner whose office received the bodies of two teenage victims of the Asiana plane crash says officials are conducting an autopsy to determine if one of the girls was run over and killed by a rescue vehicle.
San Mateo County Coroner Robert Foucrault says Sunday that senior San Francisco Fire Department officials notified him and his staff at the crash site on Saturday that one of the 16-year-olds may have been struck on the runaway.
Foucrault says an autopsy he expects to be completed by Monday will involve determining whether the girl's death was caused by injuries suffered in the crash or "a secondary incident."
He says he did not get a close enough look at the victims on Saturday to know whether they had external injuries.
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