News / USA

    Former Air Safety Official Suggests Better Plane Automation

    FILE - National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Deborah Hersman speaks to the media during a break in an investigative hearing on the crash landing of Asiana Airlines Flight 214, in Washington, D.C., December 2013.FILE - National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Deborah Hersman speaks to the media during a break in an investigative hearing on the crash landing of Asiana Airlines Flight 214, in Washington, D.C., December 2013.
    x
    FILE - National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Deborah Hersman speaks to the media during a break in an investigative hearing on the crash landing of Asiana Airlines Flight 214, in Washington, D.C., December 2013.
    FILE - National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Deborah Hersman speaks to the media during a break in an investigative hearing on the crash landing of Asiana Airlines Flight 214, in Washington, D.C., December 2013.

    Earlier this week, the NTSB -- the National Transportation Safety Board --  determined the cause and subsequent safety regulations from last year’s fatal Asiana crash. The Boeing 777 aircraft crashed on landing at the San Francisco airport, killing three and injuring nearly 200. The former NTSB chairman, who was in charge of the investigation, says the report could change the design of future airplanes.  

    The National Transportation Safety Board report says the flight crew mismanaged the Asiana plane’s descent and did not monitor airspeed, causing the 777 to crash. Deborah Hersman was the head of the NTSB at the time of the crash and was the voice of the agency, briefing the public on the investigation.

    She is now President and CEO of the National Safety Council. Hersman said she knew from her first week at the scene of the crash that the pilots did not understand what was going on with the aircraft's automated systems and did not know how to intervene to regain control of the plane.

    “This crew was extremely experienced. They had a lot of hours, but they just didn’t have the ability to understand what was happening in the critical few seconds before the crash," said Hersman. "It wasn’t just one person in the cockpit that didn’t understand. There were three experienced people in the cockpit that didn’t understand what was going on.”

    Hersman said the pilots’ confusion could be traced to airplane manuals and simulator training. She said her investigators found instructors who also were unclear about how the 777’s auto throttles perform in different modes. The Asiana pilots disabled the auto throttles, but expected them to maintain speed. They didn't and the plane crashed.
     
    Hersman said the industry needs to make sure pilots understand the automated systems as well as the engineers who designed them, and that could mean a change in how airplanes are built.

    “It starts with a good design to make sure you keep the human being in the loop, that the design is human-centered," she said. "And then, it goes through to the process of what is the manufacturer communicating to the operator, what is the operator communicating to its pilots.”

    The 777 was introduced to commercial aviation nearly 20 years ago -- the Asiana accident is its first fatal crash. Boeing manufactures the 777 and writes the flight manual, with the airline's input. Boeing disagrees with the NTSB finding that its automation systems contributed to the crash. It says it worked with pilots, unions, and safety agencies to design the systems and says any changes to the design will be reviewed with care.

    The pilots who spoke with VOA are split. Some say they, too, find the auto throttle modes complex. Others side with Boeing and say it is up to the individual pilot to study the manuals and to totally understand the airplane and its systems before ever carrying hundreds of people on board.  

     

     


    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.

    You May Like

    Hope Remains for Rio Olympic Games, Despite Woes

    Facing a host of problems, Rio prepares for holding the games but experts say some risks, like Zika, may not be as grave as initially thought

    IS Use of Social Media to Recruit, Radicalize Still a Top Threat to US

    Despite military gains against IS in Iraq and Syria, their internet propaganda still commands an audience; US officials see 'the most complex challenge that the federal government and industry face'

    ‘Time Is Now’ to Save Africa’s Animals From Poachers, Activist Says

    During Zimbabwe visit, African Wildlife Foundation President Kaddu Sebunya says poaching hurts Africa as slave trade once did

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: RR
    June 29, 2014 8:28 PM
    I spent 12 years flying the 777. Hersman is exactly right.

    by: Charles Janeke from: Los Angeles
    June 28, 2014 7:32 AM
    ASIANA / AUTOPILOT / AUTOTHROTTLES: The pilots who spoke with VOA are split. Some say they, too, find the auto throttle modes complex. Others side with Boeing and say it is up to the individual pilot to study the manuals and to totally understand the airplane and its systems before ever carrying hundreds of people on board.

    Manuals generally are over complex. Manuals are generated by manual pro’s and not driver friendly OR street wise. The observation that some pilots agree and some disagree on the 777 auto throttle protocol underscores the generalized manual disparity. Because of the invariable disparity under conditions of duress the auto-pilot / auto-throttle must therefore remain in control of basic flight dynamics notwithstanding being disconnected. The issue hence is basic flight dynamics (viz. speed and altitude; ditto slow AND high-speed stalls) protocol which both pilot and programmer does not appear to understand. The 2009 Air France and ASIANA serves as illustration. Which brings us to the core issue; auto-pilot and auto-throttle standards and independent auto-pilot and auto-throttle manual and crew certification and training. Ditto a mandatory 1h annual take/pass exam for pilots and flight engineers to remain on top of auto-pilot / auto-throttle disparities and (speed-altitude) flight dynamics management.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolatei
    X
    July 29, 2016 4:02 PM
    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolate

    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Tesla Opens Battery-Producing Gigafactory

    Two years after starting to produce electric cars, U.S. car maker Tesla Motors has opened the first part of its huge battery manufacturing plant, which will eventually cover more than a square kilometer. Situated close to Reno, Nevada, the so-called Gigafactory will eventually produce more lithium-ion batteries than were made worldwide in 2013. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Polio-affected Afghan Student Fulfilling Her Dreams in America

    Afghanistan is one of only two countries in the world where children still get infected by polio. The other is Pakistan. Mahbooba Akhtarzada who is from Afghanistan, was disabled by polio, but has managed to overcome the obstacles caused by this crippling disease. VOA's Zheela Nasari caught up with Akhtarzada and brings us this report narrated by Bronwyn Benito.
    Video

    Video Hillary Clinton Promises to Build a 'Better Tomorrow'

    Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton urged voters Thursday not to give in to the politics of fear. She vowed to unite the country and move it forward if elected in November. Clinton formally accepted the Democratic Party's nomination at its national convention in Philadelphia. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more.
    Video

    Video Trump Tones Down Praise for Russia

    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is toning down his compliments for Russia and Vladimir Putin as such rhetoric got him in trouble recently. After calling on Russia to find 30.000 missing emails from rival Hillary Clinton, Trump told reporters he doesn't know Putin and never called him a great leader, just one who's better than President Barack Obama. Putin has welcomed Trump's overtures, but, as Zlatica Hoke reports, ordinary Russians say they are not putting much faith in Trump.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora