Officials Probe Why San Francisco Jet Flew Too Slow
By Jason Dearen and Joan Lowy
SAN FRANCISCO -- Officials investigating a jetliner crash in San Francisco have determined that Asiana Airlines Flight 214 was traveling "significantly below" its target speed as it approached the airport and that the crew tried to abort the landing just before it smashed onto the runway. What they don't yet know is why, and whether the pilot's inexperience with this type of aircraft and this airport played a role.
A day after the jetliner crash-landed in San Francisco, killing two people and injuring more than 180, officials said Sunday that the probe was also focusing on whether the airport or plane's equipment could have also malfunctioned.
Also Sunday, San Mateo County Coroner Robert Foucrault said he was investigating whether one of the two teenage passengers killed actually survived the crash but was run over by a rescue vehicle rushing to aid victims fleeing the burning aircraft. Remarkably, 305 of 307 passengers and crew survived the crash and more than a third didn't even require hospitalization. Only a small number were critically injured.Investigators said that the weather was unusually fair for foggy San Francisco. The winds were mild, too. During the descent, with their throttles set to idle, the pilots never discussed having any problems with the plane or its positioning until it was too late. Seven seconds before the Boeing (BA) 777 struck down, a member of the flight crew made a call to increase the jet's lagging speed, National Transportation Safety Board chief Deborah Hersman said at a briefing based on the plane's cockpit and flight data recorders. Three seconds later came a warning that the engines were about to stall. Two-and-a-half seconds later, the crew attempted to abort the landing and go back up for another try. The air traffic controller guiding the plane heard the crash that followed almost instantly, Hersman said. While investigators from both the U.S. and South Korea are in the early stages of an investigation that will include a weeks-long examination of the wreckage and alcohol tests for the crew, the news confirmed what survivors and other witnesses had reported: a slow-moving airliner flying low to the ground.
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