Our thoughts and Prayers go out to all 307 passengers, crew and their families of flight 214. 2 of the 307 did not survive the crash and aftermath in San Francisco and at least 50 have serious injuries. Another 130 are hospitalized, many are children. As an Aviation Attorney, Pilot, Aircraft owner and Member of the FAA Safety Team, in my opinion aircraft travel is still one of the safest and most economical modes of transportation.
Also, the Boeing 777 is an amazing, technologically advanced aircraft with an excellent safety record.
The National Transportation Safety Board, also known as the NTSB is conducting an investigation and therefore no official cause has been released.
I have reviewed the amateur videos, animations, transcripts of survivors, witnesses and numerous articles. Let’s break down what probably happened.
The 777 had no apparent mechanical problems prior to the crash. The San Francisco airport (SFO) glide slope indicator was inoperative but many airports do not even have indicators. Notices to airman (NOTAMS) are published so all pilots if they do a proper pre-flight are aware.
Asiana Flight 214 had been cleared to land, meaning that the runaway was open and available.
Flight 214 was on short final in landing configuration.
At least two pilots were at the controls, one of which was designated as the Pilot in Command (PIC) who is ultimately responsible for landing. One pilot was an instructor and one pilot had never landed a 777 at San Francisco.
The 777 was staffed with four pilots, two of which are on duty at any point of time.
The 777 was equipped with a flight data recorder and a cockpit voice recorder.
I have represented pilots and passengers involved in crashes and hard landings. The data is being compiled, but here are my preliminary thoughts. (These are not my final opinions, just preliminary observations). We should evaluate all the data first!
The airspeed was below recommended landing airspeed. The altitude of the aircraft was too low for a safe landing. The pilot failed to avoid hitting the sea wall and the resultant break up of the aircraft. I also suspect there were either cockpit distractions, lack of situational awareness, spatial disorientation or some other reasons the pilots were unable to avoid the crash. A review of the black box data and computers will help us show what happened. If there were mechanical issues the pilots were dealing with, we will learn this also. There was some concern the “auto throttle” (like the auto pilot) was not functioning properly resulting in lower airspeed and higher sink rate. This reminds the pilot the first rule “FLY THE PLANE”. “Aviate, navigate, communicate, in that order”.
There is nothing to suggest that pilots were impaired. Even if the Pilot in Command had only forty-five hours in a 777, he had 9000 plus hours logged in other aircraft. He had simulator and second in command experience also.
It is a miracle that 305 people survived. Maybe the pilot’s reactions after hitting the sea wall saved the air craft. Time will tell. The official statement from the Asiana Airlines CEO is that this was “not likely a pilot error”… and that error of equipment “has not yet been confirmed”.
What do we learn from Asiana Flight 214?
Life is Fragile
Accidents can happen
People can make mistakes, even pilots.
Aircraft can fail
There are inherent risks in all forms of transportation
Let us all get our houses in order
We never know when we will be taken, so take the time now to insure against risks, have your legal affairs in order, and show and tell your loved ones everyday how much you love them.