Asiana Apologizes for Crash, NTSB Recovers Black Boxes

By Paul Riegler on 7 July 2013
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An Asiana aircraft in Seattle

An Asiana aircraft in Seattle

The Asiana jet that crash landed in San Francisco on Saturday had lost both its left and right landing gears, its rear bulkhead, part of the plane’s wings, and one engine yet all but two passengers were able to evacuate the aircraft before fire consumed a good part of the plane thanks to the quick reaction of crew and first responders.

The large twin-engine jet hit the runway hard hundreds of feet before the touchdown point despite good weather and visibility.  The ensuing investigation is likely to focus on everything from pilot error to mechanical issues to engine problems.  Other possible causes include pilot fatigue and air-traffic control instructions.

“We’ll certainly be looking at everything,” said Deborah Hersman, chairman of the NTSB, adding that “we have not yet determined what the focus on this investigation is yet.”  Hersman told reporters that it was too early to speculate on the cause prior to departing for San Francisco.

Passengers were seen walking away unharmed after exiting via emergency slides in multiple photographs posted by other passengers on Twitter.  The fire left a huge gash along top of the fuselage.

At a news conference in Seoul, South Korea on Sunday, Asiana president Yoon Young-doo apologized for the crash, saying, “We are deeply sorry for causing the trouble.” He said that the two deceased passengers were Chinese women in their teens.

Yoon also said that engine failure was likely not to be the cause of the crash.  “We think there was no engine defect,” said Yoon.

A team from the National Transportation Safety Board arrived in San Francisco and recovered both black boxes from the Asiana Boeing 777-200ER on Sunday. The black boxes record critical in-flight data.  Investigators from the NTSB will analyze the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder as part of its investigation into the crash.

The aircraft had originated in Shanghai, China and made a stop in Seoul before leaving for San Francisco.

Preliminary reports indicate that pilots on board Asiana flight 214 were following a routine visual approach.  Since late June, all flights landing in San Francisco have had to land without the benefit of an instrument-landing system as the approach aids have been temporarily turned off.

Prior to the crash, the pilots didn’t report any problems or declare an emergency, according to preliminary reports.

The plane had 291 passengers and 16 crewmembers on board.  According to a statement by Asiana, this included 77 Korean citizens, 141 Chinese citizens, 61 U.S. citizens, and 1 Japanese citizen.  In addition, the airline reported that 19 passengers were in business class and 272 were in the main cabin.

From a total of 307 souls on board, 182 were in need of medical attention and transported to local area hospitals.  Reportedly, 123 passengers were uninjured and many were able to walk away on their own from the wreckage

David Eun, a passenger on the flight, posted a picture of the downed Asiana jetliner from ground level on Twitter. The image showed passengers walking away from the aircraft.  His tweet succinctly stated: “I just crash landed at SFO. Tail ripped off. Most everyone seems fine. I’m ok.”

A witness to the crash, Stefanie Turner, posted that the “plane came in at a bad angle, flipped, exploded” on Twitter.

San Francisco International Airport was closed to all traffic for several hours following the crash and flights were diverted to other airports.  At 3:30 p.m. local time on Saturday, two runways had reopened.

The crash was the first time that the popular Boeing 777 was involved in a fatal crash and only the second hull loss.  The first was a British Airways 777 in 2008. It crashed short of London-Heathrow’s runway due to engine failure but there were no injuries.  The crash was the first in the United States since February 2009. Almost 1,100 777 aircraft are have been delivered since its launch in 1995.

Asiana is South Korea’s second-largest airline both by revenue and passenger traffic.  The most recent accident involving an Asiana aircraft was the 2011 crash of a Boeing 747 cargo plane south of the South Korean mainland in which a pilot and co-pilot were killed.  A previous fatal accident occurred in 1993, when an Asiana Boeing 737 crashed into a mountain as it approached an airport in Hageman, South Korea.  Sixty-six people died and there were 44 injuries.



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