Parts of Asiana plane found in water

Safety investigators are now reviewing the flight data and cockpit recorders from Asiana Airlines Flight 214 with the help of Korean native speakers.

San Francisco crash killed 2 Chinese students

The CBC's Paul Hunter has the latest details on the investigation into the crash of Asiana flight 214 4:22


  • Large piece of plane's tail found in water
  • Investigators are analyzing the flight data and cockpit recorders
  • Plane was travelling 'significantly below' target speed
  • Lee Gang-guk, pilot at controls, had little experience
  • 2 dead passengers ID'd as teenage students from China

Parts of the Asiana Airlines Flight 214 have been found in the water, according to National Transportation Safety Board chairwoman Deborah Hersman.

Hersman says the lower portion of the plane's tail cone was found in rocks inside a seawall while a "significant piece" of the tail of the aircraft was in the water, and other plane parts were visible at low tide.

She says other debris from the seawall was found hundreds of metres up the runway.

Safety investigators are now reviewing the flight data and cockpit recorders from Asiana Airlines Flight 214 with the help of Korean native speakers, Hersman said at a news conference Monday afternoon.

Hersman said there is a "mixture of English and Korean" on those recorders from the flight that crash-landed on a San Francisco runway on Saturday.

In addition, she said that a preliminary examination of the two main engines indicates they were both producing power.

2 teenage girls die

Two teenage girls died after the flight crashed and 180 others were sent to hospital. Remarkably, 305 passengers and crew survived the catastrophe.

Earlier on Monday, San Francisco Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White and Assistant Deputy Chief Dale Carnes both said that one of the girls may have been struck by an emergency vehicle responding to the crash. At the NTSB news conference, Hersman reiterated that the coroner has not yet determined the girl's cause of death.  

Among other things, NTSB investigators will be:

  • Reviewing data for prior flights coming to the airport, particularly the accident runway to see if there were any issues connected to the runway's recent renovation.
  • Checking the fuel samples from the aircraft.
  • Analyzing whether the Boeing 777 was being operated in accordance with the manufacturer's requirements.
  • Examining the speed and descent rates of the craft.
  • Looking at all 300 seats in the craft as well as the doors and slides and interior conditions of the plane to see how well they operated.

Hersman also talked about the crew, who will be interrogated. "We look at what they were doing and why they were doing it; what they knew about [flying the airplane] and if they were hand-flying or using automation."

Passengers trapped in back

More information about what emergency crews encountered at the crash site came out on Monday. San Francisco fire officials say they encountered smoke, leaking jet fuel and passengers coming down on chutes when they arrived at scene of the crash scene Saturday.

Lt. Christine Emmons said at a news conference on Monday that she and her partner ran up a chute into the plane. They found four passengers trapped in the back. 

Teenage students Ye Mengyuan, left, and Wang Linjia, of China, shown in this image taken from Qianjiang Evening News, died following the weekend crash of Asiana Airlines Flight 214 in San Francisco. (Qianjiang Evening News)

The conditions in the plane were changing rapidly, with the fire coming down on rescuers and the smoke thickening.

Emmons said the trapped passengers were pulled out to safety.

Earlier Monday, investigators determined that Asiana Airlines Flight 214 was travelling "significantly below" the target speed during its approach and that the crew tried to abort the landing just before it smashed onto the runway at San Francisco's airport.

It's not yet known, however, if the pilot's inexperience with the type of aircraft and at the airport played a role in the crash, they add.

Officials said Sunday that the probe was also focusing on whether the airport or plane's equipment also could have malfunctioned.

The South Korea government announced Monday that officials will inspect engines and landing equipment on all Boeing 777 planes owned by Asiana and Korean Air, the national carrier.

Also Sunday, San Mateo County coroner Robert Foucrault said he was investigating whether one of the two teenage passengers killed actually survived the crash but was run over by a rescue vehicle rushing to aid victims fleeing the burning aircraft.

Remarkably, 305 of 307 passengers and crew survived the crash, and more than a third didn't even require hospitalization. Only a small number were critically injured.

Investigators said the weather was unusually fair for foggy San Francisco. The winds were mild, too. During the descent, with their throttles set to idle, the pilots never discussed having any problems with the plane or its positioning until it was too late.

2 Chinese victims were student leaders

The two 16-year-old girls killed in the San Francisco plane crash were close friends and top students who were on Asiana Flight 214 for the same reason: To get a taste of American education and possibly brighten their futures.

Wang Linjia showed talent in physics and calligraphy; Ye Mengyuan was a champion gymnast who excelled in literature. Both were part of a trend among affluent Chinese families willing to spend thousands of dollars to send their children to the U.S. in the summer to practise English and boost their chances of attending a U.S. college — considered better than China's alternatives.

Wang and Ye were among 29 students from the city of Jiangshan who aimed to attend a summer camp, sightsee and visit U.S. universities in California. Parents have told Chinese state media that the 15-day trip cost each student about $5,000 US.

Nearly 200,000 Chinese students studied in the U.S. in 2011-2012, more than any other country and accounting for more than a quarter of the U.S.'s international student population.

-The Associated Press

Seven seconds before the Boeing 777 struck down, a member of the flight crew made a call to increase the jet's lagging speed, National Transportation Safety Board chief Deborah Hersman said at a briefing based on the plane's cockpit and flight data recorders. Three seconds later came a warning that the plane was about to stall.

Two-and-a-half seconds later, the crew attempted to abort the landing and go back up for another try. The air traffic controller guiding the plane heard the crash that followed almost instantly, Hersman said.

While investigators from both the U.S. and South Korea are in the early stages of an investigation that will include a weeks-long examination of the wreckage and alcohol tests for the crew, the news confirmed what survivors and other witnesses had reported: a slow-moving airliner flying low to the ground.

"We are not talking about a few knots" difference between the aircraft's target landing speed of 137 knots, or 253 km/h, and how fast it was going as it came in for a landing," Hersman said.

Pilots normally try to land at the target speed, in this case 137 knots, plus an additional five knots, said Bob Coffman, an American Airlines captain who has flown 777s. He said the briefing raises an important question: "Why was the plane going so slow?"

The airline said Monday in Seoul that the pilot at the controls had little experience flying that type of plane and was landing one for the first time at that airport.

Asiana spokeswoman Lee Hyomin said that Lee Gang-guk had nearly 10,000 hours flying other planes but only 43 in the 777, a plane she said he still was getting used to flying. Another pilot on the flight, Lee Jeong-min, had about 12,390 hours of flying experience, including 3,220 hours on the 777, according to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport in South Korea. Lee was the deputy pilot, tasked with helping Lee Gang-guk get accustomed to the 777, according to Asiana Airlines.

Two other pilots were aboard, with teams rotating at the controls.

The plane's Pratt & Whitney engines were on idle and the pilots were flying under visual flight rules, Hersman said. 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 150 metres 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.

There was no indication in the discussions between the pilots and the air traffic controllers that there were problems with the aircraft.

Survivors, rescuers describe scene of crash

Survivors and rescuers said it was nothing less than astonishing that nearly everyone survived after a frightful scene of fire burning inside the fuselage, pieces of the aircraft scattered across the runway and people fleeing for their lives.

In the first comments on the crash by a crew member, cabin manager Lee Yoon-hye said that seconds before impact she felt that something was wrong.

The parents of Wang Linjia, one of the two girls killed during the Asiana Airlines plane crash on Saturday, cry at a middle school in Quzhou, China. (China Daily/Reuters)

"Right before touchdown, I felt like the plane was trying to take off. I was thinking `what's happening?' and then I felt a bang," Lee told reporters Sunday night in San Francisco. "That bang felt harder than a normal landing. It was a very big shock. Afterward, there was another shock and the plane swayed to the right and to the left."

She said that during the evacuation, two inflatable slides that were supposed to inflate toward the outside instead inflated toward the inside of the plane, hurting two Asiana flight attendants. Pilots came to rescue the flight attendants but even after getting injured, she said that the crew did not leave the plane until after the passengers evacuated. She said she was the last one to go.

South Korea's Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport said the 291 passengers included:

  • 141 Chinese.
  • 77 South Koreans.
  • 64 Americans.
  • 3 Canadians.
  • 3 people from India.
  • 1 person from Japan
  • 1 Vietnamese.
  • 1 person from France.

The two passengers who died have been identified as 16-year-old students from China — Ye Mengyuan and Wang Linjia — who were scheduled to attend summer camp in California with dozens of classmates. Hospital officials said Sunday that two of the people who remained hospitalized in critical condition were paralyzed with spinal injuries, while another two showed "road rash" injuries consistent with being dragged.

Foucrault said one of the bodies was found on the tarmac near where the plane's tail broke off when it slammed into the runway. The other was found on the left side of the plane about 10 metres away from where the jetliner came to rest after it skidded down the runway. Foucrault said an autopsy he expects to be completed by Monday will involve determining whether the second girl's death was caused by injuries suffered in the crash or "a secondary incident."

He said he did not get a close enough look at the victims on Saturday to know whether they had external injuries.

The flight originated in Shanghai and stopped over in Seoul before making the nearly 11-hour trip to San Francisco.

Pilots in other planes told to stay put

On audio recordings from the air traffic tower, controllers told all pilots in other planes to stay put after the crash. "All runways are closed. Airport is closed. San Francisco tower," said one controller.

At one point, the pilot of a United Airlines plane radioed.

"We see people ... that need immediate attention," the pilot said. "They are alive and walking around."
Asiana Airlines president and CEO Yoon Young-doo told a news conference in Seoul on Monday that the pilot in control of a 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. (Ahn Young-joon/Associated Press)

"Think you said people are just walking outside the airplane right now?" the controller replied.

"Yes," answered the pilot of United Flight 885. "Some people, it looks like, are struggling."

When the plane hit the ground, oxygen masks dropped down, said Xu Da, a product manager at an Internet company in Hangzhou, China, who was sitting with his wife and teenage son near the back of the plane. He stood up and saw sparking -- perhaps from exposed electrical wires -- and a gaping hole through the back of the plane where its galley was torn away along with the tail.

Xu and his family escaped through the opening. Once on the tarmac, they watched the plane catch fire, and firefighters hose it down.

In the chaotic moments after the landing, when baggage was tumbling from the overhead bins onto passengers and people all around her were screaming, Wen Zhang grabbed her 4-year-old son, who hit the seat in front of him and broke his leg.

Spotting a hole at the back of the jumbo jet where the bathroom had been, she carried her boy to safety.

"I had no time to be scared," she said.

Nearby, people who escaped were dousing themselves with water from the bay, possibly to cool burn injuries, authorities said.

By the time the flames were out, much of the top of the fuselage had burned away. The tail section was gone, with pieces of it scattered across the beginning of the runway. One engine was gone, and the other was no longer on the wing.

Aerial view of the crash landing site with markings (Getty Images/CBC)