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Asiana 214 Crash Update; Pilots, Approach, and No Alcohol or Drug Tests

| Jul 10, 2013 | Aviation Accidents, SF Plane Crash

There were four pilots on board the plane as it approached SFO.  On long haul flights, they take turns flying.  One was sitting in the passenger seats, another relief pilot was in a jump seat in the cockpit, and two were sitting in the front.  Lee Kang-guk, who was at the controls during the crash, was a newly minted 777 captain who had just 43 hours of experience and eight landings in the 777 before this flight.  Lee Kang-guk was approximately halfway through his training on the Boeing 777.  His supervisor, Lee Jeong-min, who was supervising his first flight as a 777 supervisor and training captain, had only recently been certified as a trainer in June 2013.  Lee Jeong-min had never before flown with Lee Kang-guk.

Asiana reported that Lee Kang-guk pilot had flown Airbus A320s, a significantly smaller model, immediately before moving to train on the 777.  Reports of experts reviewing this matter have suggested that given the smaller size of the Airbus, there may be an issue regarding the pilot’s ability to adjust to the different site lines as he approached.  Additionally, while practice on flight simulators can be extremely helpful even the most advanced flight simulators provide only limited help in getting pilots accustomed to the different sight lines from the windshields of bigger jets.

Click here to read the full WSJ article: Investigators Raise Questions About Pilots

The Approach

As they approached SFO, the instructor pilot Lee Jeong-min realized they were slightly high relative to the recommended height and when it passed 1400 feet set the rate of descent to 1500 feet per minute.  The glidescope (ILS) which provides vertical guidance to keep the plane at the right elevation and angle during its approach on runway 28L was out of commission for maintenance.

According to NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman (above), the trouble began as the plane descended to 500 feet where the trainer Lee Jeong-min told investigators that he realized the plane was coming in too low and asked Lee Kang-guk to pull back.  Hersman said at 200 feet, he noticed what pilots call “a lateral deviation,” which means the airliner was not lined up correctly with the runway.

Runway 28L at SFO is equipped with red and white lights, called Papi lights that change color depending on whether the plane is too high or too low.  Two red lights and two white lights tell the pilot that he is on course.  In her briefing of July 9, 2013 Hersman reported that the crew realized when they saw four red lights that things were not right.  They attempted to increase speed and abort the landing but by then the plane was traveling so slowly that a vibrating “stick shaker” in the cockpit signaled an impending stall, which is a condition in which the wings lose lift and the plane cannot be controlled.

Assumption that Auto Throttles Would Maintain Speed

During a press briefing on July 9, 2013, Ms. Hersman indicated that the jet’s senior captain told investigators he believed automated safety systems would maintain the plane’s speed and make the approach safe.

“He assumed the auto-throttles were maintaining speed,” she said at the briefing.  Ms. Hersman said the crew had armed the jet’s auto-throttle system for the approach but by itself, the armed switches would not have maintained the jet’s speed.  A second button, located just inches below, also would have needed to be pressed to fully engage the system to maintain the crew’s selected speed.

Ms. Hersman did not say if this second system had been engaged, making it likely to become a focus of the investigation amid questions about whether or not the speed controls were functioning or set properly.  The plane was traveling 36mph slower than it should have been.

Neither of the two pilots was injured.  Hersman reported that a third pilot riding a cockpit jump seat suffered a broken rib while a fourth pilot seated in the cabin was uninjured.

No Alcohol or Drug Tests

Finally, it is standard practice to test pilots of domestic carriers for alcohol and drugs, but the decision to test foreign carries is up to the country where the pilots are based, and it was not done here.

Click here to read the full article: SF plane crash pilots focused on centering jet

Aviation, whether as a hobby, for commercial purposes, or recreation, always has risks. Everyone knows things can go wrong in the air.  Whether you are a pilot or a passenger, you share the risk of flying.  Unfortunately, even the most talented and prepared pilot can fall victim to defective equipment and human error.  The Aviation Accident Attorneys at the Brandi Law Firm have successfully represented many people injured from gliders, single engine helicopters, commercial aircraft and actions against the FAA, Boeing, Honeywell, GE, maintenance facilities, part providers, and major commercial airlines, both in trials and in obtaining settlements.  The Aviation Accident Attorneys at the Brandi Law Firm have successfully navigated the complex issues raised in these cases both factually, with experts, and the procedural questions raised by choice of law, and the Montreal convention.  If you or a loved one has been injured in a plane crash, our attorneys at the Brandi Law Firm are available to consult with you.  Please contact our office at 800-481-1615 or email us.