San Francisco Crash: Asiana pilot had just 43 hours flying Boeing 777

Miraculous escape for 181; No explanation yet for crash; Flight 214 had 307 people on board when it left Seoul

Asiana Airlines says the pilot in control of the Boeing 777 that crashed in San Francisco had little experience flying that type of plane and was landing one for the first time at that airport.

Asiana spokeswoman Lee Hyomin said 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 but had only 43 hours on the 777.

Accident investigators are trying to determine whether pilot error, mechanical problems or something else was to blame for the crash.
The head of the National Transportation Safety Board said earlier that the pilots were flying too slowly as they approached the airport and tried to abort the landing but crashed barely a second later.

Asiana Airlines said Monday that the pilot in charge when its Boeing 777 crashed in San Francisco was in training for this type of aircraft.
Pilot Lee Kang-Kuk, 46, had 43 hours of experience in piloting this type of aircraft although he was well skilled with more than 9,000 hours of flight time under his belt, Asiana said.

"It's true that Lee was on transition training for the Boeing 777", an Asiana spokeswoman told AFP.
But he was accompanied by an experienced trainer, who acted as co-pilot.

Asiana said the airliner, purchased in March 2006, had received repairs for oil leaking from an engine early last month.

Asiana CEO Yoon Young-Doo on Sunday ruled out the possibility of mechanical failure as the cause of the crash.
US investigators said the aircraft was travelling much slower than recommended and a pilot asked to abort the landing moments before the plane smashed into the ground at San Francisco International Airport Saturday.

The flight data recorder also showed that the Boeing 777 received a warning that its engines were likely to stall as it approached the runway, where it later burst into flames killing two people and injuring 182 others.

The request to abort the landing was captured on the cockpit voice recorder 1.5 seconds before the plane crashed, said National Transportation Safety Board chairwoman Deborah Hersman, who is leading the probe.

It was the first fatal crash involving an Asiana passenger plane since June 1993, when a Boeing 737 operated by the carrier crashed into a mountain in South Korea, killing 68.
 

Earlier reports:

The two people who died in an Asiana Airlines plane crash at San Francisco International Airport were Chinese schoolgirls, Chinese state media said on Sunday.

Ye Mengyuan and Wang Linjia, students at Jiangshan Middle School in eastern China, died in the crash, state broadcaster China Central Television said, citing a fax from the airline to the Jiangshan city government.

The South Korean airline said in a statement that Ye and Wang were both 16.

A group of 29 students and five teachers had set off from the highly competitive school in Zhejiang, an affluent coastal province. A woman from Zhejiang's education department had said earlier that they had lost contact with two students. The woman gave only her surname, Tang.

Of the 291 passengers onboard, 141 were Chinese. At least 70 Chinese students and teachers were on the plane heading to summer camps, according to education authorities in China.

Three Indians survive plane crash

According to news coming in, three Indians were also on board the ill-fated flight. The Indian Ambassador to South Korea, Vishnu Prakash, cnfirmed to Press Trust of India there were three Indian passengers on board the flight from Seoul to San Francisco.

One suffered a collar fracture while the other two sustained minor injuries.

Meanwhile, the two people killed on an Asiana Airlines plane that crash landed at San Francisco airport on Saturday were Chinese citizens, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported, citing South Korea's Transport Ministry.

Top Facebook executives avoid potential disaster

Senior executives of social media giant Facebook were booked on the ill-fated Asiana Air flight, but fortunately for them, they decided to switch to a United flight on their way back to the US.

"I was on another flight from Korea at the exact same time," USA Today quoted Facebook's Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg. "We are ok. My friend on that flight is ok, too."

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Asiana Flight 214 from Seoul had more than 300 passengers and crew members aboard when it made a hard landing, lost a tail and caught on fire at San Francisco International Airport on Saturday morning.

More than 180 people were taken to nine area hospitals, but the majority had relatively minor injuries. As of Saturday evening the number of fatalities stood at two while at least five people were reported in critical condition.
 

Firemen enter a Boeing 777 airplane that crashed while landing at San Francisco International Airport July 6, 2013 in San Francisco, California. An Asiana Airlines passenger aircraft coming from Seoul, South Korea crashed while landing. Two fatalities have so far been reported.   (Getty Images/AFP)

An Asiana Airlines Boeing 777 passenger jet crashed and burst into flames Saturday as it landed short of the runway at San Francisco International Airport, killing two people and injuring 181 others.

Investigators said they could not yet offer an explanation for the crash of Flight 214, which had 307 people -- 291 passengers and 16 crew -- on board when it left Seoul.

But images appeared to suggest the aircraft struck a rocky area at the water's edge short of the runway at the airport -- a major international hub, especially for flights to and from Asia.

Pictures showed the tail detached from the fuselage, and the landing gear had also sheared off.

People look at the wreckage of Asiana Flight 214 where it crashed at San Francisco International Airport in San Francisco, Saturday, July 6, 2013. (AP)

"At this time there are two fatalities," the city's fire chief Joanne Hayes-White said.

One person was still unaccounted for, officials said, revising downwards an earlier estimate of dozens.
The remainder of those on board were uninjured.

The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) said there was no indication that terrorism was to blame for the crash.
Survivor Elliott Stone told CNN that as it came in to land, it appeared the plane "sped up, like the pilot knew he was short."

"And then the back end just hit and flies up in the air and everybody's head goes up to the ceiling."

The detached tail and landing gear of Asiana Flight 214 rest on the tarmac after the plane crashed at San Francisco International Airport on Saturday, July 6, 2013, in San Francisco. (AP)

Video footage showed the jet on its belly surrounded by firefighters with debris scattered on the runway and in the surrounding area.
"It looked normal at first... the wheels were down," an unidentified man who witnessed the crash told CNN. "It just hit (the seawall) like that and the whole thing just collapsed immediately.

"It just pancaked immediately. The wings caught on the tarmac."

A team of experts from the National Transportation Safety Board was heading to San Francisco to investigate the crash landing.
 

People look at the wreckage of Asiana Flight 214 where it crashed at San Francisco International Airport in San Francisco, Saturday, July 6, 2013. (AP)

"Everything is on the table at this point," NTSB chairwoman Debbie Hersman told reporters in Washington when asked if pilot error was to blame. "We have to gather the facts before we reach any conclusions."

One dramatic photo tweeted by a survivor showed people streaming out of the jet following the crash-landing. An inflatable slide was at the front entrance. Other emergency exits also appeared to have been used.

This aerial photo shows the wreckage of the Asiana Flight 214 airplane after it crashed at the San Francisco International Airport in San Francisco, Saturday,  July 6, 2013. (AP)

"I just crash landed at SFO. Tail ripped off. Most everyone seems fine. I'm ok," the passenger, David Eun, wrote on Twitter.

But another photo from above showed a more distressing scene, with most of the roof of the plane missing and the cabin seating area charred by fire. The aircraft's wings were still attached.

"I saw some passengers bleeding and being loaded onto an ambulance," another passenger, Chun Ki-Wan, told YTN TV in Seoul.
"Everything seemed to be normal before it crash-landed."
Stone said he feared for the flight crew seated in the back of the plane, which took off in Shanghai, stopped in Seoul and then headed to the United States.

"They were sitting in the back end and got hammered because we landed short. And then they all fell out and it was just the most terrible thing I've seen," he said.

The airport was closed immediately after the incident but two runways later reopened. Some flights were diverted to Los Angeles.
Among those on board were 77 Koreans, 141 Chinese, 61 US citizens, and one Japanese national, Asiana said in a statement.

San Francisco General Hospital said it was treating 34 patients, five of them in critical condition.
Local media cited multiple witnesses who said the plane had approached the runway at an awkward angle, with several onlookers saying they then heard a loud bang.

"You heard a pop and you immediately saw a large, brief fireball that came from underneath the aircraft," Anthony Castorani, who saw the crash from a nearby hotel, told CNN. 

The accident site was covered in white foam used by firefighters, with at least six fire trucks at the scene. 
The White House said President Barack Obama had been briefed on the incident, noting: "His thoughts and prayers go out to the families who lost a loved one and all those affected by the crash."

Asiana is based in Seoul. The twin-engine 777 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.

To watch flight simulation of crash click here

 

To listen to pilots transmission with ATC just before crash click here

 

777s - the flight record

The crash of an Asiana Airlines Boeing 777 in San Francisco on Saturday is only the second major accident for the twin-engine, wide-bodied jet in the 18 years the model has been in service, aviation safety expert said.
"The 777 has a fantastic record," said Tom Haueter, who retired last year from the National Transportation Safety Board, where he was the head of aviation accident investigations.

The two accidents share a striking similarity — both occurred just about the time the planes were touching down to landing.
The previous accident occurred on Jan. 17, 2008, at London's Heathrow Airport. In the process of landing, British Airways Flight 28 from China landed hard about 1,000 feet short of the runway and then slid onto the runway. The impact broke the 777-200's landing gear. There were 47 injuries, but no fatalities.

An investigation revealed ice pellets had formed in the fuel while the plane was flying at high altitudes, clogging the fuel-oil heat exchanger. As a result, fuel was blocked from reaching both of the plane's engines. The Rolls-Royce Trent 800 series engines that were used on the plane were fixed afterward to prevent similar problems.

Bill Waldock, an expert on aviation accident investigation, said he was reminded of the 2008 Heathrow accident as he watched video of Saturday's crash in San Francisco.

The Asiana 777 "was right at the landing phase and for whatever reason the landing went wrong," said Waldock, director of the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University accident investigation laboratory in Prescott, Arizona. "For whatever reason, they appeared to go low on approach and then the airplane pitched up suddenly to an extreme attitude, which could have been the pilots trying to keep it out of the ground."

Waldock cautioned: "Of course, there is no indication directly that's what happened here. That's what the investigation is going to have to find out."
While the two accidents appear to have occurred about the point in landing, "you can't rule out anything thing at this point," Haueter said.

"I think it's someone who got slow and low on the approach, quite frankly, but we won't know anything until we see the flight data recorder," he said.
Haueter said was doubtful the Asiana accident will be linked to the same icing problem as that caused the British Airways accident since changes were made after that crash to prevent further incidents.

"Most accidents happen during takeoff and landing anyway," he said.

Safety improvements to planes in recent years — better fire-proofing of passenger cabins and reinforcements to fuel systems — may have prevented the San Francisco accident from becoming much worse, Waldock said.

Commonly referred to as the "Triple Seven," the 777 is a long-range jet designed primarily for extended flights over water. The plane that crashed in San Francisco was coming from Seoul, South Korea.

The 777 had its first flight in 1994 and was introduced into service in 1995. As of last month, Boeing had delivered more than 1,100 of the planes to airlines around the world.

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