New details are emerging in the crash of flight 214 after the pilots were interviewed by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).
The plane crashed in the San Francisco airport on Sunday killing two teenagers from China and injuring many others, including two flight attendants who were ejected upon impact.
The pilots told investigators that they were relying on automated cockpit equipment to control their speed. These revelations change the focus of the accident investigation toward whether a mistake was made setting the autothrottle or if it malfunctioned.
One of the aspects of the crash that is bothering investigators is why the jet 777 came in too slow and too low while approaching the runway in the fatal landing.
The plane clipped the landing gear and tail on a rocky seawall just off of the runway. The pilots then lost control of the aircraft, which careened to the ground.
NTSB chairman Deborah Hersman said Tuesday the training captain who was instructing the pilot flying the Boeing 777 has told investigators he thought the autothrottle was programmed for a speed of 137 knots, the speed the pilots had selected for approach. Instead, investigators say the plane reached speeds as low as 103 knots and was in danger of stalling because it was losing lift before landing.
The autothrottle is similar to a cruise control, and the pilot stated that he realizes it was not engaged just before they crashed, but they attempted to abort the landing.
Hersman said that investigators are collecting information from flight 214’s data recorders recovered from the scene. The focus now it to determine whether a mistake was made while programming the instruments.
Hersman said the pilot at the controls was only about halfway done with his training on the Boeing 777 and was landing the triple seven at the San Francisco airport for the first time ever. The co-pilot was on his first trip as a flight instructor as well.
The NTSB chair warned against arriving to early conclusion based on the evidence collected so far since they yet to examine thousands of data.
There has been speculation that language was an issue with the Asian pilots who are heard talking in Korean while requesting assistance from the control tower. But investigators speculate the they were talking between themselves.
The FAA enforces the “Sterile Rule”, which requires that all chatter and distractions that are not related to landing or taking off cease once aircraft are below 10,000 feet so the pilots can concentrate on their tasks.
South Korean officials say that 39 passengers remain hospitalized, some in critical condition in seven different San Francisco hospitals.
What do you think happened in the last moments of flight 214?