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Official: Asiana flight tried to abort landing

38 Comments
By JASON DEAREN and JOAN LOWY

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38 Comments
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You have a 10,000 ft runway, no indication of mechanical difficulties and a clear day. How can you possibly explain being short? Korean-Flagged carriers have a talent for flying perfectly functional aircraft into the ground which is why I no longer use them.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

The flight track log for the flight is here:

http://flightaware.com/live/flight/AAR214/history/20130706/0730Z/RKSI/KSFO/tracklog

The target approach speed is 137 knots---but geez, look at the airspeed in the table just prior to the crash. At 400 feet and 134 knots, they are already under the target speed and still decelerating: 134 knots... 123... 109... 85... (I have no idea how accurate the numbers in the table are.)

NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman said at a briefing Sunday, "The speed was significantly below 137 knots, and we're not talking a few knots." No kidding.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Well, all preliminary investigation reports are indicating that these "skilled" pilots gooned up a VFR approach on a CAVU day.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

It is amazing and no small miracle that only 2 people died in the accident. I hope for their families to find peace.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Also, I'm kind of curious why airports aren't required to have video cameras on all of their runways all of the time.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Sounds like the PAPI wasn't working either. If it were working you would think that four red lights would have gotten someones attention on the flight deck. A visual approach still takes 2 crew members, the Pilot Flying and the Pilot Monitoring. The non-flying pilot should have calling out low airspeed. And it will all be on the voice recorder whether he did so or not.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

wipeout

That certainly can happen in this case I've heard passengers and witnesses talking of conversations they were having with others at the time where one of them said they were either too low or too slow, so assuming they're not lying it wasn't after the fact,

And even if those people were talking after the fact I still don't understand how 2 experienced pilots could both not notice physically, visually and instrumentally, abnormalities in speed and altitude until seconds before touching down,

2 ( +2 / -0 )

This was a clear day. Regardess if one of the pilot was training with 43 hours, the Asiana air on the 777 had three pilots on this flight. They all had access to the flight data. They know the range in the flying/landing specs, and If it looks out of place, somebody should've said something and correct the problem.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

oikawa

Just been reading some pilot forums and apparently slam-dunk approaches, keeping the plane high and then coming down fast, are pretty normal at this airport.

Yes, steep approaches are common at some airports but what this flight crew did wasn't normal or intentional. What they did was overcompensate for their high altitude on approach by cutting both engines to idle. You really don't ever want to do that when you're already flying so slow and relatively low. While in approach with full flaps while bleeding off both airspeed and altitude, throttling the engines down to idle means you're essentially letting the aircraft fall out of the sky towards the runway vice flying it down. There's less control and ability to make corrections and from an idle setting it can take too long for the engines to spool up and produce enough thrust to gain altitude (if you realize like these pilots that you're short and low) without having to pitch the nose up and increase AOA leading to an unrecoverable stall.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

CNN is reporting that the pilot had 43 hours of flying the 777. There is also a video of the crash now:

http://www.cnn.com/

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Patrick Smith is a pilot and author of the excellent blog, "Ask the Pilot." His writing is informative and entertaining. Here is a link to his post regarding this accident: http://www.askthepilot.com/sfo-asiana-crash/

1 ( +2 / -1 )

The pilot hadn't landed at SFO in a 777 previously and was a relative newcomer to flying 777s, though quite experienced with 747s.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Shiningfinger-

You should read the last 3 paragraphs of the link Laguna gave.

Generally speaking, you shouldn't apply anecdotal experiences to this crash, because it's an exceedingly rare event. If you truly believe you have useful knowledge, share it with the investigation. Otherwise, don't blow smoke.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Nice to know ASIANA had a captain with ONLY 43 of flying experience with Boeing 777s!!

The person with their hands on the controls is not always the captain. More often than not it is the first officer. By the way Asiana Airlines actually has a good reputation for safety, but you would not know that, would you?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

By the way Asiana Airlines actually has a good reputation for safety, but you would not know that, would you?

You mean had, as this incident is not going to be lived down soon.

The person with their hands on the controls is not always the captain.

Oh, come on. As that plane approached stall, there would have been a number of very hard-to-ignore alarms going off. With two officers in the cockpit, it would appear that ASIANA was/is doubly incompetent.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The recorder also showed there was a call to increase airspeed roughly 7 seconds before impact.

Right.

that the crew of OZ214 was incompetent.

It's the company that is ultimately responsible for manning its aircraft with competent crews. In this case, ASIANA.

As more information comes in, it appears that Flight 214 was not on the proper approach position and was still far too high when it reached the San Mateo Bridge. The crew then tried to compensate for their error by dramatically cutting airspeed. (We know that airspeed was decreased by the crew until the plane nearly stalled.)

1 ( +1 / -0 )

SuperLibJul. 08, 2013 - 12:01PM JST

Also, I'm kind of curious why airports aren't required to have video cameras on all of their runways all of the time.

I agree, SuperLib and we should. This was brought up today during the press release at SFO airport.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Many US MAJOR airlines hire ex Navy or Air Force cadet pilots including Captain Sullenberger of US Airways Hudson River Crush. They are well trained.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

it would appear that ASIANA was/is doubly incompetent.

No. It would appear (appear is not a definitive word. Lets wait on the NTSB to do their usual excellent job) that the crew of OZ214 was incompetent.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

As that plane approached stall, there would have been a number of very hard-to-ignore alarms going off.

This is what I don't get. Apparently there weren't. All I've heard of was the stick shaker going, but only 4 seconds before impact which is obviously virtually no help at all. With all the technology you'd think there would have been some warning before that, especially correlatiing speed with altitude. And how on earth could the pilots not have seen nor felt that they were coming in too short when passengers and witnesses could, let alone with the added help of having their instruments.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

And how on earth could the pilots not have seen nor felt that they were coming in too short when passengers and witnesses could, let alone with the added help of having their instruments.

Passengers and witnesses have the luxury - after the fact - of saying they "knew" something was wrong. Very few passengers know how to fly aircraft, or how to interpret the signs of trouble from inside an aircraft. Patrick Smith is quite good at describing the kind of overreaction people (and journalists) have concerning their "brush with death" after fairly commonplace incidents in the air, or complete misinterpetations of what is going on as a plane takes off or lands.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

And even if those people were talking after the fact I still don't understand how 2 experienced pilots could both not notice physically, visually and instrumentally, abnormalities in speed and altitude until seconds before touching down,

It becomes easier to understand when considering that the cockpit crew caused the "abnormalities" themselves by failing to get the plane into the proper glide path when the plane was still a reasonable distance from the airport.

They reached a point where a critical decision had to be made. There was an important reason why they cut their airspeed as much as they did. After discovering they were far too high on their approach, they decided to radically adjust to recover. The alternative to their action would have been a decision to abort the landing attempt altogether and come around for a better approach.

Here's a critical question: Would aborting the initial landing have reflected negatively on them in any way by their company? (They certainly would have been later to the gate.) If that was the case, it would weigh heavier on them to try to take the steps they did to try to manage a far more risky landing without aborting it. The safety of the passengers and aircraft certainly did not weigh as highly in their decision-making process as they reduced the speed of the plane to near-stall.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

wipeout

I agree about the lying in the case of after the event recollection, but what I was saying was people were reporting conversations they'd had during the descent with other people, either passengers or witnesses, regarding something not being right. They weren't recollecting what had happened, they were recounting what had been said at that time. I see no reason why they shouldn't recall a conversation accurately enough. And I would agree about speed to an extent although who knows with an experienced passenger, but altitude is quite easy to tell for experienced flyers, especially on approach with familiar landmarks.

yabits

I was thinking the same thing maybe. They might have corrected the descent speed and forgotten about the irregular settings but from this graph

http://www.businessinsider.com/chart-why-asiana-flight-214-crashed-low-speed-2013-7

it seems like their speed had been corrected after it being too high initially and were reducing speed at the same rate as normal for the most part, until the final minute, where they lose speed unusually rapidly, which looks very strange to me. Why would they have lost speed so quickly at that time? And even if it was a mistake how on earth did they not realise they were coming in way too short, with clear visuals, both altitude and speed wise, and all their instrumentation?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

it seems like their speed had been corrected after it being too high initially and were reducing speed at the same rate as normal for the most part

It's a good chart and one important piece of the puzzle. Note, however, between 3 to 5 minutes before landing, how closely all the flight speeds correlate. The other important piece is the altitude of each of the flights placed on the same timeline. I believe such a graph would show the altitude of Flight 214 higher than the other flights, forcing a greater need to cut speed to get into the normal path for landing.

Assuming that the laws of physics applied to a given aircraft won't change significantly from day to day, I believe the speed chart alone indicates a much higher altitude at 1 minute to landing. I think the flight crew of 214 made a decision that put other considerations ahead of the safety of the passengers and the aircraft. It was sheer luck that the end result of their decision wasn't a much greater disaster.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Just been reading some pilot forums and apparently slam-dunk approaches, keeping the plane high and then coming down fast, are pretty normal at this airport. Unfamiliarity with the airport and the effects of a 12 hour flight wouldn't be conducive to good judgement, but still at most other airports they might have come in hard and a bit short but wouldn't have crashed, there not being a sea wall in the way usually.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

This URL has informative looking analysis accompanied by easy to understand graphs of (1) altitude vs distance from runway (2) speed vs distance from runway and has two plots per graph: (1) the ill-fated flight AA214 (2) the immediately previous flight UAL852 which was also a Boeing 777 (same type of aircraft as AA214)

http://flyingprofessors.net/what-happened-to-asiana-airlines-flight-214-2/

In these graphs it is easy to see that AA214's altitude was too high, which they tried to compensate for by dropping speed and descending quickly at the last minute, presumably to prevent a runway overrun, but instead stalled the plane.

I understand that ILS was not working but is not needed because GPS can be used instead. I notice that my bicycle GPS is often drastically incorrect, both about position and altitude. It seems that my bicycle GPS unit also includes software to "filter and smooth" the signal, because GPS signals are inherently noisy.

Is it possible that GPS could have given inaccurate information? Either because the raw signal was consistently incorrect, or because the error in the GPS signal just happened to hit a weak spot in the filtering/smoothing software.

I guess that would all be in the black box.

I understand ILS wasn't working but it is not a necessity; GPS is a suitable substitute.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I agree about the lying in the case of after the event recollection, but what I was saying was people were reporting conversations they'd had during the descent with other people, either passengers or witnesses, regarding something not being right. They weren't recollecting what had happened, they were recounting what had been said at that time.

What you're implying was that they felt - and felt correctly - that there was something "wrong" with the approach, and that they mentioned this to other passengers; and you asked, if the passengers noticed, how come the pilots didn't? That strikes me as a concocted scenario. Passengers notice things "wrong" during takeoffs and landings all the time: too high, too low, too fast, too slow, not straight, plane hit runway too hard, sudden go-around etc. If you're ever in a flight that crashes, some of those passengers will be "proved" right.

Side windows provide at best partial view of what's happening during a landing, and unless this flight was woefully short of the runway, which it wasn't, assessing that it was too low would be next to impossible. So would an assessment of speed. The idea that the pilots realized after some of the passengers that there was a risk of crashing is fanciful.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

wipeout

I agree with what you're saying in principle but it's a different point to what you were making before, which was that people, with the best intentions, trick themselves into believing something was the case at the time because of teh evidence they see before them now.

The idea that the pilots realized after some of the passengers that there was a risk of crashing is fanciful.

Fanciful apart from the fact in this case they were right. Any why shouldn't they be. Regular and knowledgeable flyers into a certain airport, of which there are millions these days, have a lot of markers they can judge things by. These aren't people who are freaked out by a bit of turbulence or the engine noise changing, it's experienced flyers who could well be private pilots themselves in some cases. And even if they were right by luck instead of correct judgment the fact remains the pilots didn't notice they were too low until seconds before impact, with completely clear visuals and instrumentation all the way, which raises the obvious question, why not?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

As it happens, since I commented I read Patrick Smith's short article in Slate, I notice that he makes essentially the same point I did. Not exactly surprising, as he's been saying the same thing for the best part of 20 years now, and he thought of it first. He does a great public service with his ultimately futile attempts to convince people that media reporting of aviation stories and air disasters is inaccurate, sensationalistic, and frequently unhelpful in terms of giving people a proper understanding of what has happened (probably true of almost all media treatment of scientific and technical matters).

Not that I expect you to buy any of this, but in relation to the Asiana crash he very sensibly says:

"Be exceptionally wary of on-air testimony from eyewitnesses or passengers who were aboard the jet. The news channels salivate over these firsthand narratives, but any crash investigator will attest to the notorious unreliability of such accounts. If some of the things I’ve heard in interviews over the past 24 hours are any indication, stuff your ears with gauze and leave the room when an eyewitness starts talking. I don't want to insult anybody's powers of observation, but passengers have a terrible habit of misjudging and misinterpreting the basics of flight even when things are running perfectly normal, never mind in the throes of a violent emergency."

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Yes, and I agree with the basic theory. It's the same for eye-witnesses for anything, especially when the police are investigating crimes they get give numerous conflicting accounts of an incident. It's not about "buying anything", it's a common phenomenon. But a lot of people on flights nowadays are not laymen, they do have a good understanding of how flights work for whatever reason. As I said that's by the by here, the fact is whether they were right through luck or judgement, they were ostensibly correct. The question still remains, whether they were accurate observers or not, how could experienced pilots on a clear day not accurately judge a quite simple landing and not realise they were going to come in short until literally the very last seconds? Complacency, over-tiredness, faulty instrumentation, bad working practices, who knows?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Wondering if this kind of crash could have been avoided with the help of the mentioned "glide slope" that had been shutdown last month ?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Nice to know ASIANA had a captain with ONLY 43 of flying experience with Boeing 777s!! I will NEVER ever fly on that type of airline!

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

That certainly can happen in this case I've heard passengers and witnesses talking of conversations they were having with others at the time where one of them said they were either too low or too slow, so assuming they're not lying it wasn't after the fact.

Rather than lying, "selective memory" or "exaggeration" (and possibly unintentional at that) might be a nicer way of putting it. Both height and speed are very difficult to judge from inside an aircraft - or for witnesses on the ground, even if they were close enough and at an optimum angle for observing the landing. The speeds for this aircraft are reported by CNN as 136 mph 16 seconds before impact and 122 mph on impact. The recommended approach speed is 157 mph.

What proportion of passengers would know how to detect a speed that is 25-35 mph too slow shortly before impact?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Apparently, the 777 was equipped with Pratt & Whitney engines; this could rule out the iced fuel problem which lead to the accident in Britain. According to the internets:

Under visual flight procedures in the Boeing 777, a wide-body jet, the autopilot would typically have been turned off while the automatic throttle, which regulates speed, would been on until the plane had descended to 500 feet in altitude, Coffman said. At that point, pilots would normally check their airspeed before switching off the autothrottle to continue a "hand fly" approach, he said.

Does anyone have any idea the time duration between 500 feet in altitude and landing?

The approach to SFO is stunningly beautiful. No joke: perhaps the pilots simply got caught up in the scenery.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

@Laguna, I was thinking the exact same thing, the non-flying pilot was enjoying the scenery rather than monitoring the approach.

And I'm guessing about 40-50 seconds from 500 feet. You will start to shallow out the descent and normal touchdown is about a 1000 feet down the runway.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Many US MAJOR airlines hire ex Navy or Air Force cadet pilots including Captain Sullenberger of US Airways Hudson River Crush.

Yeah well.

One of the things you used to hear about Korean Air and China Airlines was that their crummy safety record - with many crashes caused by pilot error - was due to the high proportion of ex-military pilots. Military training in Taiwan may be far below what it is in America, but I think the idea that military pilots are better or worse than civilian ones shouldn't be taken too seriously.

In the case of China Airlines, a crappy attitude to maintenance and safety, and a general culture of blame-shifting in Taiwan, probably had more to do with it. Korean Air nowadays is rated as a very safe airline. China Airlines has been crash free for years, but I do not believe it went through the same rebuilding process as Korean Air and I wouldn't trust them to park my car.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

Korean-Flagged carriers have a talent for flying perfectly functional aircraft into the ground which is why I no longer use them.

Too bad people had to die before someone payed attention.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

SuperLib: "Also, I'm kind of curious why airports aren't required to have video cameras on all of their runways all of the time."

No kidding! You'd think this kind of thing would be a given nowadays, but maybe there's some 'security' reason they don't have them. Who knows? They should, though, I agree.

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

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