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Two flight attendants hurled from plane onto runway

July 11, 2013 Aviation, Headline News 1 Comment Email Email

egtmedia59Two flight attendants were not at their stations during the Asiana Airlines crash-landing in San Francisco because they had been sucked out of the aircraft and hurled onto the runway, crash investigators have disclosed.

The fate of the flight attendants, who are hospitalised with injuries, is among a number of unsettling revelations emerging from the investigation.

It also turns out that not only was the pilot of the aircraft a novice at flying the B777 (and making his first landing at San Francisco International Airport in one), he was sitting next to a man making his first trip as an instructor pilot. It was the first time the two had flown together.

The pilot in charge of the flight was on his ninth training flight on a B777 and was 11 flights short of the worldwide standard to become licensed to fly that aircraft type.

The instructor, or trainer, pilot had only just qualified for that role, the airline said, although he was a highly experienced pilot, including on B777s.

Far further back in the aircraft, two flight attendants were flung from the plane when its main landing gear slammed into a seawall beyond the end of the airport runway.

“Two flight attendants were ejected from the aircraft during the impact sequence so they were not at their stations when the aircraft came to rest,” US National Transportation Safety Board chairwoman Deborah Hersman confirmed at a news conference yesterday.

“They were found down the runway and off to the side of the runway.”

The plane was so far out of position when it came into land that the flight crew couldn’t initially see the runway.

“The pilot that was sitting in the jump seat, the relief first officer, identified that he could not see the runway… from his seated position,” Hersman said.

Investigators are now interviewing the flight crew. News reports in the US said three pilots were in the cockpit at the time of the crash. The first officer was released from hospital after treatment for a cracked rib and the other two pilots did not require hospital admission.

The pilots are reported to have told federal investigators that they set the automatic throttle controls on the plane for a correct landing speed – only to find that the plane had slowed far beyond that setting.

The cause of the crash has not been determined officially. While pilot error is a strong possibility, investigators have warned against reaching premature conclusions. Both the main pilots were highly experienced. The pilot at the controls had landed many times at San Francisco International Airport, but in B747s rather than B777s. He was fairly new to the B777 and technically still in training as a pilot for that aircraft type.

The trainer pilot (acting as co-pilot at the time of the crash) had landed 33 B777 flights and was also a very experienced pilot, having clocked up six times more flight hours than the 500 required to become a trainer. Nevertheless, he had only just qualified as a trainer and his ill-fated flight to San Francisco was the first flight on which he had served in that role, Hersman said.

The plane, flight OZ 214 from Seoul, had 291 passengers and 16 crew aboard. Of those, two passengers died, both 16-year-old schoolgirls from eastern China. One was possibly run over by an airport fire engine racing to the scene while she lay on the tarmac. That is being investigated.

The plane came in to land very low and slow, with passengers on the window seats realising that the sea was coming alarmingly close, well before the plane was over the runway.

The Boeing 777 is considered one of safest planes in operation. More than 1100 are in service and the Asiana crash was the B777’s first fatal accident since the model first took to the skies 18 years ago.

Asiana says the plane that crashed was built in 2006 and was bought new by the airline in the same year. The airline knows of no engine or mechanical problems with it.

Saturday’s accident was the first multiple-fatality crash involving a major airline in North America since November 2001.

Written by Peter Needham

Currently there is "1 comment" on this Article:

  1. AgentGerko says:

    It may not have been a major airline but I think the 50 killed when Colgan Air crashed in 2009 would have considered that a fairly nasty prang. Your mention of the last fatal incident involving a major airline being in 2001 intimates that it was the last major incident, which obviously it was not.

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