San Francisco Plane Crash: Pilots Relied on Automated Equipment, Reports Say

NEW YORK | Wednesday, July 10th, 2013 11:13am EDT

The pilots of the plane that crashed in San Francisco a few days ago relied on automated cockpit equipment to control the jetliner’s speed, investigators found out.

Pilots Relied on Automated Equipment Reports Say 01

The pilots of Asiana Flight 214 relied on special electronic to control the vehicle’s speed as they landed, but it was too late when they realized they were flying too low and too slow before the aircraft crashed. Photo: NTSBgov/Flickr

One of the main questions of the case is why Boeing 777 jet came in far too low and slow, clipping its landing gear and then its tail on a rocky seawall just short the runway.

It was then “he recognized that the auto throttles were not maintaining speed, and he established a go-around attitude,” said the NTSB chief. “He went to push the throttles forward, but he stated that the other pilot had already (done so),” said one of investigators.

“This is one of the two hallmarks of complexity and challenge in the industry right now,” said Doug Moss, an Airbus A320 a pilot for a major U.S. airline and an aviation safety consultant in Torrance, Calif.

“It’s automation confusion because from what Deborah Hersman said, it appears very likely the pilots were confused as to what autothrottle and pitch mode the airplane was in. It’s very likely they believed the autothrottles were on when in fact they were only armed.”

One more detail surfaced today. Two female flight attendants of the crashed plane weren’t in their seats when the vehicle slammed into a seawall, and both were ejected upon impact.

“They were found down the runway and off to the side of the runway,” says NTSB chief Deborah Hersman. Both survived with injuries and remain in stable condition.

The news comes a few days after it emerged that the Boeing was driven by a man who trained how to manage the vehicle. Moreover, investigators found out that the instructor pilot supervising him was making his first trip as an instructor.

“This was the first time he and the flying pilot had flown together,” Hersman said. “After the impact, the aircraft ballooned, it yawed left and went into a 360-degree spin.”

The instructor pilot has earlier admitted to authorities that he realized soon before the crash that the plane was moving too low, but their efforts to abort were too late.

Hersman said it’s too early to come to certain conclusions as well as to blame a mechanical or pilot errorfor the accident. She also spoke specifically about the auto throttles, saying investigators were delving into how they were working and how they were used.

But Hersman also stated: “The crew is required to maintain a safe aircraft … One of the very critical things that needs to be monitored on an approach to landing is speed. So we need to understand what was going on in the cockpit, and also what was going on in the aircraft.”

Let us remind, the Boeing 777 aircraft had crash-landed at San Francisco international airport, killing two people and injuring dozens more and forcing dozens of frightened passengers and crew to scamper from the heavily damaged aircraft before it was engulfed in smoke and flames on Sunday.

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