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Safety Board Cites Flight Crew, Automated Systems in Asiana Crash


The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) says the Asiana Airlines plane that crashed last year was flying too low and too slowly for a landing in San Francisco. Three people were killed and nearly 200 injured in the crash of Asiana Flight 214. The U.S. agency released the cause of the crash during a meeting on Tuesday.

Mismanagement and inadequacies - two words used most in the NTSB report of the Asiana plane crash. Investigators explained how the flight crew deactivated an automatic speed control and failed to monitor the plane's airspeed. The crew of the Boeing 777 approached the San Francisco runway too low and too slowly, crashing into a seawall. The NTSB says the crew
“failed to work together adequately to monitor and respond to their deteriorating situation.”

The NTSB cited poor pilot training, non-standard communication and the lack of manual flight training. On the aircraft, the NTSB faulted complex automation.

Investigator Bill English explained, over animation, how the pilot took manual control of automated systems that could have prevented the accident.

“The pilot disconnected the autopilot and retarded the thrust levers to idle.In hold mode, the auto throttle does not control air speed,” he said.

Investigators called it a “cascade of errors” that the crew never corrected. Speaking about the captain flying the plane, investigator Roger Cox said, “Although he was an experienced pilot, he lacked critical, manual flight skills. Pilot skills degrade if not practiced.”

In the right seat was an instructor pilot on his first instruction flight. And a third pilot's call to abort the landing came too late.

Investigator Bill Bramble said, “Inconsistences in company manuals and the fact both pilots were captains and the pilot monitoring was an instructor led to confusion as to who was responsible for issuing a go-around.”

The parties involved now have the chance to appeal the board’s findings. And they may as Boeing is rejecting criticism of its 777 design.

A Boeing statement pointed to the 777’s extraordinary safety record since its introduction 20 years ago and to the automated flight system that has been used for more than 55 million safe landings.

Asiana accused Boeing of having an inadequate description of its auto throttle and autopilot systems in training manuals. Asiana also said it has already implemented some training recommendations.

Acting NTSB Chairman Christopher Hart said, "We had a pilot who was new in this airplane, we had an instructor who was a new instructor, we had fatigue, we had issues regarding understanding the automation, a lot of issues lined up the wrong way to produce this."

Hart said, in the end, the pilot - not an automated system - must hold command over the plane.

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    Carolyn Presutti

    Carolyn Presutti is an Emmy and Silver World Medal award winning television correspondent who works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters. She has also won numerous Associated Press TV, Radio, and Multimedia awards, as well as a Clarion for her TV coverage of The Syrian Medical Crisis, Haiti, The Boston Marathon Bombing, Presidential Politics, The Southern Economy, Google Glass & Other Wearables, and the 9/11 Anniversary.

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