Asiana says pilot in SF 777 crash was in training

Rescuers surround an Asiana Airlines Boeing 777 after it crashed while landing at San Francisco International Airport, Saturday, July 6.

Asiana Airlines Inc. said the pilot in charge of landing a Boeing 777 that crashed Saturday in San Francisco was in training for the long-range plane.

SAN FRANCISCO/SEOUL, South Korea  — The pilot of the crashed Asiana plane at San Francisco airport was still "in training" for the Boeing 777 when he attempted to land the aircraft under supervision, the South Korean airline said Monday

Lee Kang-kook, the second most junior pilot of four on board the Asiana Airlines aircraft, had 43 hours of experience flying the long-range jet when it crashed Saturday, Asiana said.

Amateur video shows Asiana flight's crash landing

Amateur video shows Asiana flight's crash landing
Duration: 1:29 Views: 6k MSN News/Newsy

It was his first attempt to land a 777 at San Francisco, though he had flown there 29 times previously on different types of aircraft, said South Korean transport ministry official Choi Seung-youn.

Earlier, the ministry said Lee Kang-kook had accumulated a total of 9,793 flying hours, including his 43 at the controls of the 777.

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Two Chinese teenagers were killed and more than 180 injured in the crash, the first fatal accident involving the Boeing 777 since it entered service in 1995.

The plane crashed after the crew tried to abort the landing with less than two seconds to go, according to the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board said Sunday.

Asiana said Lee Kang-kook was in the pilot seat during the landing, although it was not clear whether the senior pilot, Lee Jeong-min, who had clocked up 3,220 hours on a Boeing 777, had tried to take over to abort the landing.

Information collected from the plane's cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder indicated that there were no signs of trouble until seven seconds before impact, when the crew tried to accelerate, NTSB Chairwoman Deborah Hersman said at a news conference at the airport.

A stall warning in which the cockpit controls begin to shake activated four seconds before impact, and the crew tried to abort the landing and initiate what is known as a "go around" maneuver 1.5 seconds before crashing, Hersman said.

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"Air speed was significantly below the target air speed" of 137 knots, she said. The throttle was set at idle as the plane approached the airport and the engines appeared to respond normally when the crew tried to gain speed in the seconds before the crash, Hersman added.

In a tragic new twist, the San Francisco Fire Department said that one of the teenagers may have been run over by an emergency vehicle as first responders scrambled to the scene.

"One of the deceased did have injuries consistent with those of having been run over by a vehicle," fire department spokeswoman Mindy Talmadge said. "Many agencies were on the field yesterday."

Autopsies to determine the cause of death will be conducted by the San Mateo County coroner's office, officials said.

More than 30 people remained hospitalized late Sunday. Eight were listed in critical condition, including two with paralysis from spinal injuries, according to hospital officials.

The charred hulk of the aircraft remained on the airport tarmac as flight operations gradually returned to normal. Three of the four runways were operating by Sunday afternoon.

Hersman said it was too early to speculate on the cause of the crash. The data recorders corroborated witness accounts and an amateur video, shown by CNN, that indicated the plane came in too low, lifted its nose in an attempt to gain altitude, and then bounced violently along the tarmac after the rear of the aircraft clipped a seawall at the approach to the runway.

Asked whether the information reviewed by the NTSB showed pilot error in the crash, Hersman did not answer directly.

"What I will tell you is that the NTSB conducts very thorough investigations. We will not reach a determination of probable cause in the first few days that we're on an accident scene," she told reporters.

Asiana said mechanical failure did not appear to be a factor. Hersman confirmed that a part of the airport's instrument-landing system was offline on Saturday as part of a scheduled runway construction project, but cautioned against drawing conclusions from that.

"You do not need instruments to get into the airport," she said, noting that the weather was good at the time of the crash and the plane had been cleared for a visual approach.

The Asiana flight was flying to San Francisco from Seoul with 291 passengers and 16 crew members on board. Several large groups of Chinese students were among the passengers.

San Francisco 777 crash: The interior of Asiana Airlines Flight 214 that crashed in San FranciscoReuters Photo: NTSB

The interior of Asiana Airlines Flight 214 that crashed Saturday, July 6, in San Francisco

SERIOUS INTERIOR DAMAGE

People on the flight said nothing seemed amiss until moments before the crash. Pictures taken by survivors showed passengers hurrying out of the wrecked plane, some on evacuation slides. Thick smoke billowed from the fuselage and TV footage showed the aircraft gutted by fire. Much of its roof was gone.

Interior damage to the plane also was extreme, Hersman said on CNN earlier Sunday.

"You can see the devastation from the outside of the aircraft, the burn-through, the damage to the external fuselage," she said. "But what you can't see is the damage internally. That is really striking."

The NTSB released photos showing the wrecked interior cabin with oxygen masks dangling from the ceiling.

The dead were identified as 16-year-old Chinese girls Ye Meng Yuan and Wang Lin Jia, both students, Asiana Airlines said. They had been seated at the rear of the aircraft, according to government officials in Seoul and Asiana, and their bodies were found outside the plane.

Hersman said the first emergency workers to arrive at the scene included 23 people in nine vehicles. San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee said a total of 225 first responders were involved.

"As chaotic as the site was yesterday, I think a number of miracles occurred to save many more lives," Lee said at the airport news conference. Appearing later at San Francisco General Hospital, he declined to address whether one of the Chinese teenagers may have been run over.

It was the first fatal commercial airline accident in the United States since a regional plane operated by Colgan Air crashed in New York in 2009.

"For now, we acknowledge that there were no problems caused by the 777-200 plane or (its) engines," Yoon Young-doo, the president and CEO of the airline, told reporters Sunday at the company's headquarters on the outskirts of Seoul.

Asiana said passengers included 141 Chinese, 77 South Koreans, 64 Americans, three Indians, three Canadians, one French, one Vietnamese and one Japanese citizen.

Asiana, South Korea's junior carrier, has had two other fatal crashes in its 25-year history.

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