Story Summary

Jet crashes at San Francisco airport

Around 12 p.m. July 6, an Asiana jet plane crashed on the runway at the San Francisco International Airport. At least two people were killed in the incident and more than 40 injured. A cause for the accident is under investigation by the NTSB.

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sf jet crashBy Hailey Branson-Potts, Los Angeles Times

A 16-year-old Chinese student who was aboard Asiana Airlines Flight 214 was still alive when a firetruck ran over her, the San Mateo County coroner said Friday.

Ye Mengyuan died of “multiple blunt injuries that are consistent with being run over by a motor vehicle,” said San Mateo County Coroner Robert J. Foucrault said in a news conference. “Those injuries she received, she was alive at the time.”

Ye was one of three passengers killed. Her body was found close to the aircraft’s left wing following the July 6 crash-landing at San Francisco International Airport, officials said.

Gordon Shyy, a spokesman for the San Francisco Police Department, said the girl was outside the jet and covered in fire retardant foam when the fire truck “went over her.”

San Francisco Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White said last week that fire officials immediately notified police — as well as the FBI and National Transportation Safety Board — when they learned Ye might have been struck. The drivers of all five trucks at the scene tested negative for drugs and alcohol, she added.

Ye was from the eastern Chinese province of Zhejiang and was part of a group of teenagers heading for a three-week church summer camp in West Hills.

Sixteen-year-old Wang Linjia was also killed. She, too, was traveling to attend the church camp in the San Fernando Valley.

San Francisco General Hospital officials last week confirmed the death of a third girl, who died July 12. She was identified as Liu Yipeng, according to Chinese state media. She went to school with the other two victims who were killed in the crash, China News reported.

sf jet crashA Chicago-based law firm said today it is beginning legal proceedings against Boeing Co. on behalf of 83 victims of Asiana Airlines Flight 214, which crash-landed at San Francisco International Airport on July 6. Ribbeck Law said it has filed a petition for discovery in the Circuit Court of Cook County in Illinois, requesting that Boeing produce documents related to design, manufacturing and maintenance records of the model 777 plane that crashed. The law firm said in a statement that there may have been a problem with the plane’s auto-throttle, along with evacuation chutes that improperly inflated inward and seat belts that aggravated passenger injuries.

–Los Angeles Times

SAN FRANCISCO – Asiana Airlines will sue Bay Area television station KTVU-TV for using fake, racially insensitive names of pilots flying the ill-fated Asiana Airlines Flight 214, the Associated Press reported Monday.

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A spokeswoman for the South Korean airline, Lee Hyomin, said the broadcast seriously damaged Asiana’s reputation and that it will sue the station to “strongly respond to its racially discriminatory report,” according to the Associated Press. The suit will likely be filed in the United States, she said.

The KTVU segment that referred to the pilots by four false names, including “Capt. Sum Ting Wong” and “Wi Tu Lo,” has gone viral and drawn heavy criticism on the Internet.


Two teens were killed in the car July in Sanfransisco

Two teenage girls from China were killed and more than 180 people were injured when the Boeing 777 clipped a sea wall and slammed into a runway July 6 at San Francisco International Airport. A third passenger, a girl, died of her wounds Friday.

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sf jet crashBy Kate Mather, Los Angeles TimesA girl injured in the Asiana Airlines Flight 214 crash in San Francisco died Friday morning, hospital officials said, marking the third fatality from the incident.

At the request of the girl’s family, San Francisco General Hospital released limited information about the victim, saying only that she had been listed in critical condition.

“Her parents have asked that we reveal no further information at this time,” the hospital said in a statement. “We will respect their wishes while they grieve.”

The bodies of two teenage girls were recovered Saturday after the Boeing 777 clipped a sea wall and slammed into a runway at San Francisco International Airport. Officials identified those girls as Ye Mengyuan and Wang Linjia, both 16, who were part of a group of Chinese high school students on their way to West Valley Christian Church and School in the San Fernando Valley for a three-week summer camp.

Wang’s body was found about a mile away from the wreckage, near where the aircraft first hit the ground. She is believed to have been ejected from the rear of the aircraft– along with three flight attendants who survived with serious injuries — when the tail sheared off.

Ye’s body was found close to the aircraft’s left wing. San Francisco police confirmed Friday that a fire truck responding to the incident hit her, though coroner’s officials have yet to determine her cause of death.

Gordon Shyy, public information officer for the San Francisco Police Department, said the girl was outside the jet and covered in fire retardant foam when the fire truck “went over her.”

The crash sent 182 people to area hospitals. San Francisco General Hospital, which treated 67 patients, said Friday afternoon that six people were still hospitalized, including two adults in critical condition. Stanford Hospital, which saw 55 people, said Friday its final patient was listed in serious condition.

By Laura J. Nelson, Kate Mather and Lee Romney

Los Angeles Times

SAN FRANCISCO — The automated controls that should have assisted Asiana Airlines pilots with their landing at San Francisco International Airport seemed to be working normally when the jetliner slammed into the sea wall and runway, federal investigators said Thursday.

Asiana Flight 214 crash in San Francisco

NTSB investigator Bill English and agency Chairwoman Deborah A.P. Hersman examine the wreckage of the Asiana Airlines jet that crashed Saturday in San Francisco. (National Transportation Safety Board / EPA / July 9, 2013)

A preliminary investigation into cockpit tools that help pilots set minimum speed and altitude showed “no anomalous behavior,” National Transportation Safety Board Chairwoman Deborah A.P. Hersman said.

The NTSB’s updated information provides a more detailed look inside the cockpit in the moments before the Boeing 777 crashed on Saturday. But it still does not resolve the central question of the crash: Why the Boeing 777′s speed and altitude fell so far out of the normal range for landing before the crash, which killed two people and injured 182 more.

Investigators are finishing their on-scene work at Runway 28L but will continue to analyze pieces of the plane at the NTSB’s labs in Washington, D.C. A report that will officially determine the cause of the crash is expected in about a year. Cranes have removed much of the wreckage.

The pilots, who had been cleared for a manual landing at SFO, told investigators that they had set the plane’s automated throttle to maintain a speed of 137 knots during descent. At an altitude of about 200 feet, they said, they noticed their speed declining and tried to recalibrate, adding more power to the engine.


“There are expectations that the crew is monitoring speed on approach,” Hersman said.

Investigators said the throttles had been set in several different “modes” in the minutes before the crash, possibly to execute angles and speeds dictated by air-traffic control. However, there are some modes for which the auto-throttle on the Boeing 777 does not work to maintain speed.

Hersman said Thursday that crew members said two other times that the plane was coming in too slow and too low. Initial reports had indicated only one call was made, about 1.5 seconds before the crash, to abort the landing and try again; a different crew member also called to abort the landing about three or four seconds before impact.

The plane’s relief pilot also commented on the plane’s sink rate, or descent over time, before the cockpit began making adjustments, Hersman said.

Flying pilot Lee Kang-kook, a veteran who was training on the Boeing 777, initially told the Korean media that he had been temporarily blinded by a bright flash of light just before the landing. That light source did not affect his vision, Hersman said, and seemed to be a reflection of the sun. Lee could still see the flight control instruments; the two other pilots in the cockpit did not mention the light.

The damaged runway could open as early as Sunday, after some segments are repaved and repainted. The instrument landing system, which helps pilots navigate the runway, will be closed until August as pre-scheduled construction on the runways continues.

SAN FRANCISCO — Shortly after Asiana Airlines Flight 214 crashed in San Francisco, passengers and witnesses pleaded with 911 responders to send help — some frantically, some insistently.

“I’m reporting an airplane crash at SFO (San Francisco International Airport),” an early witness said in calls released by the California Highway Patrol.

“An airplane crash at SFO?” a dispatcher asked.

Asiana Flight 214 crash in San Francisco

NTSB investigator Bill English and agency Chairwoman Deborah A.P. Hersman examine the wreckage of the Asiana Airlines jet that crashed Saturday in San Francisco. (National Transportation Safety Board / EPA / July 9, 2013)

“Yeah. We were hiking on a trail outside Pacifica and we heard a giant explosion and … an airplane had crashed right there at SFO.”

Another caller dialed 911, thinking the response was taking too long.

“We still don’t see any firemen or anything,” another witness said.

“We are responding, trust me,” the operator responded.

Moments before, the Boeing 777′s main landing gear slammed into a seawall between the airport and San Francisco Bay, spinning the aircraft 360 degrees as it broke into pieces and eventually caught fire.

For more on this CNN story, click here.

Los Angeles Times

SAN FRANCISCO — One of the pilots on Asiana Airlines Flight 214 told investigators that he knew the ill-fated flight was coming in too low into San Francisco International Airport and tried to correct the path.

seawall2At a press conference Tuesday, the National Transportation Safety Board said it had interviewed three of the four pilots on the plane, which crash-landed Saturday. Two people were killed and scores were hurt.

Deborah A.P. Hersman, chairwoman of the NTSB,  said the training pilot, who served as the leader of the cockpit crew, noticed soon before the crash that the plane was going in too low. The pilot said the crew thought the auto throttle was maintaining speed but it was not. They crew tried to abort the landing but it was too late, she said.

Hersman added that the landing gear and the plane’s tail hit a sea wall dividing the runway from San Francisco Bay. The plane made a 360-degree spin before it came to a stop.

The flight crew was “very cooperative and forthright” with investigators, she added.

Lee Kang-kook was at the controls of the flight. It was his first time landing a Boeing 777 at the San Francisco airport, and with a key part of the airport’s automated landing system not working, he was forced to visually guide the massive jetliner onto the runway.

Officials said Lee and his more-experienced instructor pilot sitting next to him didn’t discuss the predicament. Cockpit voice recordings show that the two didn’t communicate until less than two seconds before the plane struck the sea wall and then slammed into Runway 28L.

Officials said the Asiana jetliner had fallen more than 30 knots below its target landing speed in the seconds before it crashed, even as the crew desperately tried to apply more engine power.

But even before that, the aircraft had departed from a stable and planned approach to the runway, failing to keep up with its intended speed of 134 to 137 knots at 500 feet over the bay.

Michael L. Barr, an aviation safety expert and former military pilot who teaches at USC, said that at 500 feet the pilots should have had a stable approach in which the aircraft was on its proper glide slope, on course to the center line of the runway and at its proper airspeed. Otherwise, the landing should have been aborted and a “go around” taken for another attempt.

Pilots can be reluctant to abort a landing, even when the approach is unstable, Barr said. Although pilots’ willingness to abort a bad approach has improved, it remains a problem in the industry.

The Washington, D.C.-based Flight Safety Foundation, which advocates for airline safety, said in a recent published report that 97% of the time, pilots do not abort a flight from an unstable approach. The reasons they most often cite are their experience and competency to recover.

But Lee had only 43 hours of experience in that type of jet, although he had many thousands of hours in other Boeing aircraft, including the 747. He was being supervised by the more experienced Capt. Lee Jung-min, though he too did not call for a go-around until 1.5 seconds before the crash — far too late to abort. By then, the aircraft’s systems were already warning that it was near stall, a condition in which it does not have enough lift to continue flying.

Only seconds earlier, Lee Jung-min had called for more engine power, but that also came too late.

Barr said the powerful engines on big jetliners can take up to 10 seconds to go from idle to full thrust.

“Ten seconds when you are low to the ground is like a lifetime,” he said.

At three seconds before impact, the jet’s speed dropped to 103 knots and the engines were spooling up but still at only 50% of full power. The jet’s aft fuselage clipped the sea wall and the plane slammed into the ground. Two passengers died and dozens were injured.

Investigators were combing through the wreckage Monday. The lower portion of the plane’s tail cone is on the rocks at the sea wall, officials said, and a “significant piece” of the tail is in the water. More pieces of the plane are visible in the water when the tide goes out. At the edge of the tarmac, investigators found the horizontal stabilizer, the vertical stabilizer and the upper portion of the tail cone.

Farther down Runway 28L, investigators have documented pieces of the landing gear and fractured pieces of the aft fuselage, as well as sea wall debris several hundred feet away.

The San Francisco airport’s glide path instruments were taken out of service in June for construction, though the crew had two other automated systems to help make a smooth landing. But flight crews have become increasingly reliant on the automated systems, and in many cases jetliners execute fully automated landings. In the process, crews are at risk of losing their proficiency to handle the complex jobs with their own skills.

The lack of the automated systems should not have been a problem, said Jared Testa, chief flight instructor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University‘s Arizona campus.

crash1By Victoria Kim, Los Angeles Times

Asiana Airlines on Tuesday defended the experience of the pilots who were at the controls when Asiana Flight 214 crash-landed at San Francisco International Airport last week, killing two and injuring scores of others.

Lee Kang-kook, the captain who was in training on the Boeing 777, had previously flown in to SFO 29 times as a co-pilot on Boeing 747s, Asiana President Yoon Young-doo told reporters at a briefing Tuesday in Seoul. The co-pilot on the flight, Lee Jung-min, had flown into the airport 33 times, Yoon said.

“They each had 33 and 29 times of operational experience,” Yoon said before boarding a flight himself for San Francisco, calling the men “excellent pilots.” “I can tell you that they were sufficiently qualified pilots.”

The investigation into Saturday’s crash is zeroing in on what went wrong in the moments leading up to the plane’s approach onto Runway 28L, when the aircraft was flying too low and too slow. Aviation safety experts questioned why the crew did not recognize the problem and take action before the flight clipped a sea wall then rammed into the runway.

It was only 1.5 seconds before impact that the plane attempted to abort the landing, by which time it was too late.

Lee Kang-kook had only 43 hours of experience on the 777. Lee Jung-min was his “training captain,” but he had only been certified as a training supervisor June 15, less than a month before the crash, Asiana representatives said.

Yoon said he had personally apologized to the families of the two Chinese girls who were killed in the crash. He is scheduled to view the crash site Tuesday afternoon after arriving in San Francisco, and possibly meet with survivors and their families in the coming days.

Yoon said he did not expect to meet with the pilots because they are out of reach until the National Transportation Safety Board‘s investigation is concluded.

Local News

Is Sea-Tac ready for a plane crash?

SEA-TAC INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT — Many can’t get over that so many people survived the terrible airliner crash in San Francisco, but what if a similar situation happened at Sea-Tac?

SEATACAre first responders at our airport prepared to handle hundreds of injuries on the tarmac?

The Port of Seattle Fire Department runs drills daily for that worst-case scenario, and they also train on a salvaged airplane fuselage every three years. That training is required by the Federal Aviation Administration.

“All airports across the country, including us, train every day in hopes that this doesn’t happen,” said Chief Randy Krause. “We’re ready in case it does.”

Krause’s department has many pieces of equipment standing at the ready in case an airplane crashes.

“We’re honing our craft every day through the small incremental elements of a big response,” said Krause.

The Port of Seattle has a giant tractor-trailer that holds enough emergency medical supplies for more than 300 patients — and inside the state-of-the-art command center first responders have a bird’s-eye view of any disaster.

Krause is eager to learn what worked – and maybe what didn’t work – in San Francisco, and put those ideas into training at Sea-Tac in case the unthinkable happens.

“If it were to happen here, I know that we’re ready,” Krause said. “I want to learn as much as I can from my brothers and sisters in San Francisco and I know that they’ll share that with us on the lessons that they learn.”

All of the port’s firefighters are also EMTs, so they can immediately help triage any injuries.

Plus, firefighters don’t just stay at the airport – they also get live fire training with other departments in the surrounding communities when help is needed.