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Plane crashes while landing at San Francisco International Airport
July 6, 2013 5:39 PM   Subscribe

Asiana Airlines Flight 214 crashed just before noon today while attempting to land at SFO.

307 passengers were on board the Boeing 777. So far, 2 have been confirmed killed, 60 unaccounted for, and 82 are being treated in area hospitals. Flights were suspended at SFO as of this afternoon, and planes are being redirected to other airports.
posted by Red Desk (292 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
. .
posted by Red Desk at 5:40 PM on July 6, 2013


A friend and co-worker of mine heard about "a plane crash at SFO" immediately after coming home from dropping off his wife and baby at SFO. He almost had a nervous breakdown while waiting for details.

. .
posted by brundlefly at 5:42 PM on July 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was really hoping the number of dead stayed low but the 60 missing is worrisome. Fingers crossed that they all turn up alive and well.
posted by immlass at 5:47 PM on July 6, 2013


Airliners.net: part 1, part 2.
posted by mazola at 5:48 PM on July 6, 2013 [6 favorites]


The 60 number appears very unclear - only one person mentioned it (fire chief) and no other official has confirmed it or referred to it subsequently.
posted by modernnomad at 5:48 PM on July 6, 2013


They're not missing. The Atlantic is reporting 61 injured, information via the SF Fire Department.
posted by capricorn at 5:50 PM on July 6, 2013


..

I hope the 60 people missing are just with their families and didn't check in. How terribly scary.

I heard a flight safety commenter on MSNBC (sorry, not sure who)mention that they do drills on this type of plane routinely, and the crew is required to be able to evacuate that plane in 90 seconds. I bet that saved a lot of lives today.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 5:50 PM on July 6, 2013


I'm hoping those 60 people are just ones who declined medical treatment.
posted by sbutler at 5:51 PM on July 6, 2013


I just caught some of the 5:30 press conference - sounds like only 1 person unaccounted for now.
posted by estlin at 5:52 PM on July 6, 2013


Twitter has been ridiculous throughout this. The plane exploded! It cartwheeled! Everyone walked away! John Cho was killed!
posted by desjardins at 5:55 PM on July 6, 2013


..
posted by cashman at 5:57 PM on July 6, 2013


That the Weather Channel website has a big red banner across the top saying "ALERT: Plane crashes at SFO" is just about enough to make me stop using it (though, unfortunately, their forecasts seem the best for Minneapolis). Their usual (for this summer anyway) big red banner saying something like 'Millions At Risk!!!!1!!!!' was already pushing my limits, but is at least weather-related.

KTVU (or the AP--it wasn't totally clear who was writing) managed to imply the plane was flipped over in one sentence and backpedal in the next in an article featuring a picture of a plane clearly the right way up. That's pretty shoddy but I guess not as brazen as the Weather Channel.
posted by hoyland at 5:58 PM on July 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


[Folks, please flag and move on when you're being obviously trolled. ]
posted by restless_nomad at 5:59 PM on July 6, 2013


Saw this on Twitter: comparison of the approach yesterday vs. today. I'm not a pilot though; couldn't tell you if that's still an acceptable approach or not. But it looks rough...
posted by sbutler at 6:01 PM on July 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


In this case, it appears the pilot never even let SFO know there was a problem.

CNN (fwiw) thinks otherwise.
posted by hoyland at 6:02 PM on July 6, 2013


audio [mp3] from Paul Reed
posted by maggieb at 6:07 PM on July 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is a weird incident.

- No reported problems on approach (we know this from the ATC recording, which is available)
- Landed well short of the runway, gear (and possibly an engine) sheared off by the seawall
- Tail presumably stuck the ground before the rest of the fuselage
- Clear skies and good visibility, little wind
- No ILS was available at the time, hand flown approach.

I really don't see an obvious explanation for this at all. Either some mechanical failure occurred and it did not manifest itself until the very last stages of the approach, or a 777 pilot can't land by hand on a clear day? Neither of these seem particularly reasonable. I think this might be one we have to wait for the report to get any clue about, since the data available don't really add up for me.

CNN is saying some ridiculous things at the moment and should not be believed. Also I recommend not trusting any sort of "radar data" from this flight, unless it comes from the NTSB or the FAA. FlightAware is prone to all sorts of weird behaviors, especially at low altitudes, and it reports values that can differ from the relevant quantities in subtle ways. Particularly don't trust anything about "speed".
posted by kiltedtaco at 6:16 PM on July 6, 2013 [19 favorites]



hoyland: "That the Weather Channel website has a big red banner across the top saying "ALERT: Plane crashes at SFO" is just about enough to make me stop using it."

A lot of suit-n-tie types use weather.com from their hotel rooms to check what the weather is for cities they're traveling to next, and if there will be travel delays. Agreed: not weather-related, but pertinent to their base. SFO's a big airport, a closure like that can affect travel elsewhere.
posted by not_on_display at 6:16 PM on July 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


Damn. A plane falls out of the sky, the tail falls off, it burns up and falls apart and gets spread across half an airport, and there are 2 dead? I'm not minimizing those 2 deaths, but damn it could've been very very much worse.
posted by nevercalm at 6:17 PM on July 6, 2013 [22 favorites]


.
posted by limeonaire at 6:19 PM on July 6, 2013


"Twitter has been ridiculous throughout this. The plane exploded! It cartwheeled! Everyone walked away! John Cho was killed"

There was an explosion and it spun around horizontally.

No more ridiculous than the news outlets ("its too early to tell if it's terrorism or not")
posted by schwa at 6:22 PM on July 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't quite understand the comments about there not being a reported problem on approach. I don't have cable, but I was at the gym earlier and either CNN or FOX was showing a transcript where the ATC was telling the pilot that emergency equipment was heading out during their approach. Or did I misunderstand?
posted by randomkeystrike at 6:26 PM on July 6, 2013


Can't have been that bad if people got their luggage before getting off the plane.
posted by empath at 6:30 PM on July 6, 2013


This Reddit comment details what is going on in the ATC recording. The tower is talking to the Asiana plane after it has crashed - there's nothing on the recording of the pilot announcing problems prior to landing.
posted by jontyjago at 6:30 PM on July 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Earlier CNN was reporting that the plane had come to rest upside down even as they rolled footage of a broken but right side up plane. Ace reporting, that.
posted by workerant at 6:30 PM on July 6, 2013 [7 favorites]


Corinth is actually visiting family in SF over the four day weekend... I wonder how this is going to affect her flight back home :x
posted by yeoz at 6:35 PM on July 6, 2013


jontyjago - OK, got it. All I was seeing on TV was the on-screen transcript with the sound off.
posted by randomkeystrike at 7:02 PM on July 6, 2013


Appallingly, many news outlets ran with articles about how much of a relief it was that some rich lady was not on the plane.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 7:26 PM on July 6, 2013 [6 favorites]


MBATR: I had the same thought. Disgusting to read "thankfully megarich facebook woman didn't get hurt" even as its still unclear how many people were injured and killed.
posted by pdq at 7:27 PM on July 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


I wonder how this is going to affect her flight back home

My flight to SFO tonight was cancelled, but the replacement is supposed to land tomorrow around noon. It sounds like SFO will be at least partly operational if she's flying out Sunday.
posted by amery at 7:29 PM on July 6, 2013


Appallingly, many news outlets ran with articles about how much of a relief it was that some rich lady was not on the plane.

Well, let's be fair here: the real news story isn't the death of two (or more) people and a spectacular aircraft crash landing where many people walked away from it and the airport was shut down for the day.

It was that a (near) billionaire changed flights so she could use frequent flier miles for her family's tickets on United. I mean geez, has she never heard of flying private?
We switched to United so we could use miles for my family’s tickets.
posted by disillusioned at 7:37 PM on July 6, 2013


I'm seeing planes flying in and out of SFO, so they're trying to get it back on track. They're operating two of the four runways. I hear the international terminal is pretty backed up and full, but I suspect by tomorrow they'll have most things back on schedule. Check with your airline.

I too was shocked by the shoddy reporting. CNN, Fox and MSNBC were all saying things the live helicopter feed clearly contradicted (it's upside down, only one emergency chute deployed, the wings broke completely off). The local SF stations were doing a pretty good job though; they showed the press conferences in their entirety without talking over them, which the big networks did not do.
posted by jeffamaphone at 7:38 PM on July 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


..
posted by Cash4Lead at 7:38 PM on July 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sad to say, when I compare the front feed of CNN to other sites, I find that it has more in common with The Daily Mirror than with political analysis that writes for a numerically literate audience. Although it is the first pagehit I go to if Reddit is too frothy.

My thoughts and prayers will be with those that were in this accident.
posted by saber_taylor at 7:41 PM on July 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Once again, Al Jazeera smoked almost every major US news outlet. They covered the entire presser, they did not go on and on about terrorists, they didn't give death counts they couldn't verify. All in all, a very professional news source to rely upon.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 7:44 PM on July 6, 2013 [41 favorites]


All 307 accounted for per SF Mayor.
posted by scottymac at 7:46 PM on July 6, 2013


Note the evacuees in front with luggage in hand. Seriously I think they should be charged. Link
posted by bowline at 7:47 PM on July 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Appallingly, many news outlets ran with articles about how much of a relief it was that some rich lady was not on the plane.

And said rich lady made a big production about how she was not on the plane.
posted by Unified Theory at 7:49 PM on July 6, 2013


I too was shocked by the shoddy reporting. CNN, Fox and MSNBC were all saying things the live helicopter feed clearly contradicted (it's upside down, only one emergency chute deployed, the wings broke completely off). The local SF stations were doing a pretty good job though; they showed the press conferences in their entirety without talking over them, which the big networks did not do.

Sounds exactly like what happened during the events surrounding the Boston Marathon bombings where the local stations did actual journalism while the national networks were content to just make entirely absurd things up to be first with the "breaking news."
posted by RonButNotStupid at 7:51 PM on July 6, 2013 [6 favorites]


I've been a captive audience to CNN's festival of maudlin, uninformed "reporting", while also surfing the aviation discussion boards at Pprune and Avherald; those internet boards had far more relevant, timely, and informed reports than the emotional pap Wolf Blitzer was giving me.

Watching the mass-media cover this story makes me lose faith in their ability to cover any story in a credible way.
posted by Dimpy at 7:51 PM on July 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


And said rich lady made a big production about how she was not on the plane.

I can understand that. I have an ex in SF that I hope to never see again. I've never been to the city because I don't want to run into her. Now I'm conflicted because if I weren't avoiding her, I might have been on that plane. So now I just really want to find, hug, and thank her.
posted by dobbs at 7:57 PM on July 6, 2013 [8 favorites]


I was watching CNN all day. All I know is every time Wolf Blitzer started reporting instead of Don Lemon things seemed to go downhill. He'd miss facts any viewer would notice from news conferences that were just aired, annoyingly cut into those conferences too late, and make math errors. Get your shit together, Wolf!
posted by floam at 8:03 PM on July 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


There was a car accident on a street I will probably use tonight! Updating my status.
posted by Brocktoon at 8:03 PM on July 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Witnesses described seeing a plane making a bad approach - the nose was too high and the tail was dragging - the tail ultimately hit the wall and broke off. Someone that Telstar Logistics retweeted pointed to this info: Boeing information about airliner tail strikes and the 777's features designed to prevent them: Tail Strikes (PDF)

My experience on Twitter was not so negative as others report - I am at a friend's for the weekend and had just signed on while she was taking a phone call and I saw this tweet & photo from David Eun, a VP from Samsung who had been on the plane. Most of the accounts I saw were from witnesses or passengers. Several witnesses reported cartwheeling which apparently is not accurate. Witnesses are not always the best reporters, but several used the same cartwheel description so that is curious - maybe some part of the plane created that impression.

I saw some Twitter speculation but not much that has proved erroneous. Eun did say "everyone seems fine" but crap, the guy just escaped a crashed, burning plane - I didn't take "everyone" as factual, but was happy to learn there were survivors.

Sorry, Nelson, you are a better person than me I guess. When I am killing 10 minutes on Twitter and one of the first tweets I see is a photo and account from a survivor of a plane crash that just occurred, well yes, I am astounded, curious, and eager to learn the facts about what happened. Be nice if we all waited 6 mos till the NTSB report is out, but human nature being what it is, people are are interested or curious for various reasons.
posted by madamjujujive at 8:04 PM on July 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


http://missionlocal.org/2013/07/asiana-airlines-passengers-to-be-treated-at-sf-general-hospital/
posted by gingerbeer at 8:11 PM on July 6, 2013


http://sfappeal.com/2013/07/passenger-most-everyone-seems-fine-after-plane-crashes-at-sfo/
posted by gingerbeer at 8:11 PM on July 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Unified Theory: "And said rich lady made a big production about how she was not on the plane."

A post on her Facebook page is a big production?
posted by the_artificer at 8:17 PM on July 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


Once again, Al Jazeera smoked almost every major US news outlet.

They are tied in my mind with the BBC as far as journalistic quality
posted by Renoroc at 8:17 PM on July 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


And said rich lady made a big production about how she was not on the plane.

Last I heard Facebook was a public company. New of her death, true or not, would fuck with share prices. I know that it seems venal, but it's the responsible thing to do (to announce she's okay).

She's also a wife and a mother and a daughter and a friend to some, and like everyone else she posts status updates on Facebook.

Geez.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:20 PM on July 6, 2013 [33 favorites]


Anyway, I love taking off, but I hate landing, especially on the bigger planes. Depending on the weather, there's usually a big bump and a lot of swaying around. Unnerving.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:22 PM on July 6, 2013


I think it's totally natural to have and to express the thought "my god, that could have been me." Why would that be different for someone who is rich?
posted by desjardins at 8:25 PM on July 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


She's not only rich, she's successful. While I know her parents would have qualified as upper middle class, once again they were successful, and Florida is hardly the center of the universe.

Sandberg is a great example of what you can do if you're smart, you work hard, and you have some luck. In this case she could have, just like the people on the plane, been unlucky. Write a novel about it if you like.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:28 PM on July 6, 2013


Not only that, but it's a lot easy to post a quick message on FB "Hey everyone, I'm fine!" than answer a million txts and frantic phone calls.

When I travel I post status updates on FB. Mostly because I'm bored and there's nothing else to do in the airport, but also because my mom and aunts worry. If they knew I were flying from Incheon to San Francisco today they'd be frantic if I didn't post that I was OK.

And I'm not rich or famous. It's just what some people do on Facebook. Relax, folks.
posted by sbutler at 8:30 PM on July 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


Based on such limited info as is available right now, here's my guess: It's a pilot error. He came in too low, and struck the seawall with th tail, which knocked it off.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:30 PM on July 6, 2013


I hope backseatpilot shows up in this thread.
posted by desjardins at 8:32 PM on July 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


The witnesses are not reliable judges of what attitude a plane should be in. They saw the tail hit the ground and inferred the attitude was wrong, but from the pictures of the debris field we know the big problem here was that the plane was way way short of the runway. The attitude is a secondary issue; if the plane was flying the correct glidepath and speed then the attitude would have been correct. I guess that might sound backwards, but the goal is to fly a 2.5 degree descent at 140 knots or whatever the computed approach speed is and touch down 500 ft from the runway threshold, the pilot will find whatever combination of pitch and thrust is necessary to meet those goals.
posted by kiltedtaco at 8:33 PM on July 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Last I heard Facebook was a public company. New of her death, true or not, would fuck with share prices. I know that it seems venal, but it's the responsible thing to do (to announce she's okay).

Um. How would anyone know she was planning on taking that flight without reading news stories reassuring us that, though she planned on taking that flight, she didn't?
posted by pdq at 8:36 PM on July 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Any traveling mefites stuck in SF, let us know.

It does sound like SFO is now open again, if not all runways operational. We've been following this all day, me in part because I was in a somewhat similar crash years ago, and this one stirred up a bunch of PTSD crap for me. We're also right near one of the hospitals that has a bunch of the injured folks, so were hearing the sirens on their way there.
posted by gingerbeer at 8:37 PM on July 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Anderson Cooper will never say the number 777 again because that's just what these murderous planes want is attention from the media!
posted by Camofrog at 8:38 PM on July 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I just now found out about this, which makes this article on The Slog make much more sense.
posted by gc at 8:40 PM on July 6, 2013


someone i know was having a string of bad luck and had it not reversed at the very last minute, he, his wife, and his kid would have been on board that plane. when he shared with the community that we're both part of that he was fine it never occurred to me that he was making this all about him or that he was grandstanding. it seems a weird reaction to have to what seems like a very even handed kind of message, no matter how rich and famous the person might be.
posted by nadawi at 8:42 PM on July 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


storify post with good photos and other social media reports
posted by gingerbeer at 8:48 PM on July 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


CNN is saying some ridiculous things at the moment and should not be believed.

CNN really is going downhill. Wolf Blitzer is the worst. He was grilling some information source on the phone, making it seem like she was lying to him. I had to turn it off.

Fox was no better; I think they had the weeping Statue of Liberty from The Onion's Kelly cartoons anchor-sneering.

And yes- as tragic as the deaths and injuries are, it is kind of amazing that we live in a world where an actual crash landing isn't instantly lethal to everyone. God bless the NTSB, and all the other agencies across the world working day and night to make these miracles reality.
posted by gjc at 8:56 PM on July 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Sounds exactly like what happened during the events surrounding the Boston Marathon bombings where the local stations did actual journalism while the national networks were content to just make entirely absurd things up to be first with the "breaking news."

Who can forget "canine dog"?
posted by juiceCake at 8:57 PM on July 6, 2013


I flew down from Portland en route to Beijing this morning to got caught up in this. Normally you glide down passing over Point Reyes followed by a grandstand view of San Francisco on the left, followed by a left turn into the bay to line up with the runway. This morning however was completely different apparently coming in over the East Bay and doing a right hand turn over the salt pans to line up in what felt like a steep approach. It felt unusual and I wonder whether the 777 followed the same pattern.
posted by marvin at 9:00 PM on July 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


People who know more about commercial air traffic than I do: Is there video of this? I don't mean "is there video I can see," but are there cameras that would routinely capture runway approaches and takeoffs that would have video of the accident so someone could analyze it to find out what happened?
posted by KathrynT at 9:01 PM on July 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Witnesses described seeing a plane making a bad approach - the nose was too high and the tail was dragging - the tail ultimately hit the wall and broke off. Someone that Telstar Logistics retweeted pointed to this info: Boeing information about airliner tail strikes and the 777's features designed to prevent them: Tail Strikes (PDF)

This wouldn't surprise me. Anyone coming into SFO is probably familiar with just how close to the sea that planes land, before actually touching the tarmac.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:13 PM on July 6, 2013


The plane was carrying 290 passengers "and one infant," from which I infer a lap infant -- does anybody know if the infant is okay? Has anyone seen this reported, or the identities of the dead, or IDs of the hospitalized? This is the kind of thing that reliably keeps me up at night.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:14 PM on July 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


The news is saying 2 people dead, everyone else accounted for. The news reports I linked upthread have the most detailed info I've seen on who went to which hospitals. I'll link more if I see something with actual info.
posted by gingerbeer at 9:25 PM on July 6, 2013


At San Francisco General Hospital, 10 patients were in critical condition.

Eight adults and two children were admitted, and the adults ranged in age between 20 to 40. Four were men, and six were women.

posted by gingerbeer at 9:27 PM on July 6, 2013


Update 4:50: San Mateo County coroner confirms two deaths. One body was found near tail of the plane, the other found near the front at near the fuselage. Both are adult females.
Update 5:45 p.m.: Officials are now reporting that only one passenger is still unaccounted for. 123 passengers were treated or released at the airport, 181 went to nine different hospitals across the Bay Area. Two have been confirmed dead. SF General Hospital alone is currently treating 35 patients, including 11 children. Five of those patients are still in critical condition.

posted by gingerbeer at 9:33 PM on July 6, 2013


Thanks gingerbeer.

It's sad and scary (and literally my worst flying fear, landing short at SFO), but it's pretty amazing that a plane can land like THAT and still only two or three people didn't make it off. Hug an engineer, man.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:41 PM on July 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Regarding Twitter updates: Eun said "Most everyone seems fine." Lots of tweets left off that "most."
posted by jeri at 9:52 PM on July 6, 2013


Eyebrows McGee: "The plane was carrying 290 passengers "and one infant," from which I infer a lap infant -- does anybody know if the infant is okay? Has anyone seen this reported, or the identities of the dead, or IDs of the hospitalized? This is the kind of thing that reliably keeps me up at night."

This suggests that the lap infant is fine, if it helps.
posted by ChrisR at 9:53 PM on July 6, 2013


He clutched his 16-month-old son to his chest and braced for impact. Nearby were his wife and his in-laws, all returning from a vacation in South Korea.


One story with direct reference to a child in someone's lap. All were okay.
posted by gingerbeer at 9:54 PM on July 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


This wouldn't surprise me. Anyone coming into SFO is probably familiar with just how close to the sea that planes land, before actually touching the tarmac.

A runway is a runway - if you come up short on grass, a building, or a rock wall, you're going to crash with few exceptions. Especially if you land tail first.
posted by MillMan at 9:55 PM on July 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


I live only a few miles uphill from the airport, and weirdly, I heard nothing; no sirens, no helicopters. I didn't even know anything had happened until a couple hours later.
posted by Existential Dread at 10:02 PM on July 6, 2013


Cali airports, aside from LAX; most of them look like old school cassette volume meters; rising up and down, green yellow and red bars dancing. Mix in the fog, geez. Landing on a rising slope; wow; probably only one chance to land because of the hill factor.
posted by buzzman at 10:03 PM on July 6, 2013


The runways at the Boston airport are like that, too: the strips come right up to the water's edge.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:05 PM on July 6, 2013


So I have two questions, since I don't own a TV and the internet is not making any goddamn sense to me today. Number one, did the pilots survive? And number two, why are there huge holes in the roof of the plane?
posted by phaedon at 10:11 PM on July 6, 2013


Looks like the plane burned after everyone got off by the emergency escapes. The emergency escape slides for the front doors are quite close to the cockpit. Considering that most of the structural damage is towards the tail of the plane I am 99.5% certain the pilots are not significantly injured.
posted by thewalrus at 10:14 PM on July 6, 2013


No fog today in San Francisco at 11:37 a.m.; it had all burned off. Tailwind. Pilot survived; the only two deaths so far were female, and the pilot's voice on the audio maggieb posted is clearly male.
posted by blob at 10:14 PM on July 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yes, pilots survived. Holes are from the fire.
posted by gingerbeer at 10:14 PM on July 6, 2013


I hate landing at Boston more than SFO. But landing at SFO, I have more than once had that "Oh hey there's the Bay RIGHT THERE HOLY COW...oh, wheels down, never mind..." feeling.
posted by rtha at 10:17 PM on July 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Photo just after crash.

Photo of plane in flames.

Photo of burned plane from above.
posted by gingerbeer at 10:19 PM on July 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


I am just astounded and grateful that only 2 people perished. Just think of everything that went into assuring the safety of everyone when something awful like this happens.

Then think of it again the next time you see some bumper sticker or hear some politician talk about how "government is the problem, not the solution."
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 10:20 PM on July 6, 2013 [13 favorites]


Gah, the fire pics are terrifying. This is why you have such a short time to get out.
posted by thelonius at 10:29 PM on July 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Local news is saying that the two people who died were both 16 year old girls from China. Not vouching for the accuracy of that statement.
posted by gingerbeer at 11:06 PM on July 6, 2013


One of my good friends and his girlfriend was on this flight - he suffered a minor injury. He was actually in that photo that the passenger posted to twitter right after the crash.

.. for the deaths, but it's great news that so few died in this accident. Had luck rolled differently today would be a very different type of day for me.
posted by ilikemefi at 12:15 AM on July 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


this is the second such crash of a 777. Both were taildown.
posted by dougiedd at 12:19 AM on July 7, 2013


rtha: “I hate landing at Boston more than SFO. But landing at SFO, I have more than once had that "Oh hey there's the Bay RIGHT THERE HOLY COW...oh, wheels down, never mind..." feeling.”
Coming into National on Runway 1 is the same. Of course, on Runway 19
posted by ob1quixote at 12:22 AM on July 7, 2013


The outcome is amazing. Plane breaks up, outbreak of fire, 300 people onboard and only two drop dead? Impressive engineering and luck.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:23 AM on July 7, 2013


This is terrible, and I hope the counts of injury and death remain low.

I was an EMT at the disaster drills for several years running at Dulles airport.

I have also driven an ambulance onto the airfield for heart attacks coming off of planes when airport EMS was overburdened. (We were second or third due)

For the drill they have a big fake plane they light on fire and a couple of hundred volunteers with fake injuries.

Here are a few facts that might interest you:

That white foam they are squirting everywhere is essentially soap and water foam. It works very well for extinguishing jet fuel fires. One of the reasons they don't use it in more places is that it makes the whole landscape very, very slippery. Almost every newbie who hops out of an ambulance falls down in the drills, even when they are warned. (This includes me)

Even though there are relatively few ambulances apparently on scene, there are a larger number waiting a short distance away. This prevents traffic jams and chaos.

There is a big sign when you drive an ambulance onto an airfield saying "AIRPLANES ALWAYS HAVE RIGHT OF WAY" and they mean it. The wash from a jet nearly knocked us over, even at an angle.

The limited footage I have seen of this incident indicated excellent response by emergency teams, and my respect and admiration goes out to them as always. ("look for the helpers")
posted by poe at 12:23 AM on July 7, 2013 [24 favorites]


I am just astounded and grateful that only 2 people perished. Just think of everything that went into assuring the safety of everyone when something awful like this happens.

Then think of it again the next time you see some bumper sticker or hear some politician talk about how "government is the problem, not the solution."


Not only that, but it's worth pointing out that the flight attendants are safety officers first and food-and-drinks dispensers second. It's their job to make sure the 300 odd souls on board get out the doors before the whole thing goes up in flames. They deserve a lot of credit.
posted by the duck by the oboe at 12:32 AM on July 7, 2013 [14 favorites]


The cartwheel thing? It sounds like one eyewitness used the word, probably not knowing what it meant. Others said "spun" as in, like a top. Sloppy reporting.

There was British pundit on television last night who observed strong similarities with an earlier British 777 crash which had been found to be caused by fuel starvation due to frozen water in the fuel lines.
posted by epo at 3:33 AM on July 7, 2013


I too was shocked by the shoddy reporting.

When I stopped being shocked in that way, I also stopped paying attention to TV news. Worked wonders. I don't understand why everybody doesn't do it, but there are a lot of things people do that I find mystifying.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:49 AM on July 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


If we are talking about the same British pundit (I watched CNN), he seemed to be a at least two sheets to the wind and drove me more nuts than Blitzer.

I swear I thought I could see the fish in the bay the last time I flew into SFO.
posted by jgirl at 5:28 AM on July 7, 2013


rtha: "I hate landing at Boston more than SFO. But landing at SFO, I have more than once had that "Oh hey there's the Bay RIGHT THERE HOLY COW...oh, wheels down, never mind..." feeling."

That's because there's that crazy horrible steep turn over water on the way into Logan (and LaGuardia, but less so). Both SFO and Oakland have that "Oh shit, water right there" thing but I have a better grasp of where the airport is and the turns aren't as steep. I'm sorely tempted to avoid LaGuardia on my way to Burlington just because of the approach, but that hinges on United having a decent fare, as Delta's alternative is a 30 minute connection in Detroit, which seems laughable (though my mom did make it the one time she tried).
posted by hoyland at 5:40 AM on July 7, 2013


@jgirl, The guy I saw was on the BBC in the UK, he seemed in possession of his faculties to me. Perhaps CNN drug their guests so they don't embarrass the in-house autocue readers by appearing to have a grip on events
posted by epo at 5:41 AM on July 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Judging by some helicopter footage I saw, it looks like the plane's tail hit right at the shoreline, where there are rocks piled up to prevent erosion. You would have to be coming in really low, with your tail dragging in the water, to hit that and have your tail ripped off.

And now for no particular reason, a musical interlude: Brian Eno's song Burning Airlines Give You So Much More.
posted by charlie don't surf at 5:48 AM on July 7, 2013


I think I've read and listened to everything that's available about the crash right now. Next time you see your friendly neighborhood FAA employee, give them a big hug because this could have been a lot worse without all of the onerous regulation we as a country place on the aviation industry.

The runway they were landing on, 28L, is one of the two "main" runways at SFO. The number refers to the magnetic heading the runway is pointed with the last digit truncated, so "28" means the runway is pointed on a 280 degree magnetic heading, give or take a couple degrees. For parallel runways like what SFO has, L, C, and R denote left, center, and right in the same direction. SFO has two sets of two parallel runways, 10/28 Left and Right, and 1/19 Left and Right. The 1/19 runways are the "crosswind" runways for use when the winds shift or it's a busy day and you need to handle multiple approaches and departures at the same time.

Runway 28L is over 11,000 feet long, with a 300 ft. displaced threshold (that's the big white arrow at the end of the runway). Displaced thresholds can be used to take off but not to land; the landing zone starts at the thick white bars before the numbers painted on the pavement. In front of the displaced threshold, marked with yellow chevrons, is an overrun zone which is not intended to be used for takeoffs or landings. From the photos, the overrun zone looks to be about the same length as the displaced threshold, which means the plane landed short at least 600 feet.

According to the recorded meteorological reports (METARs), the weather was good and the airport was conducting visual operations, which means the pilots use their view out the cockpit window to approach and land. However, the NTSB is probably going to be investing this Notice to Airmen (NOTAM):

06/005 (A1056/13) - NAV ILS RWY 28L GP U/S. 01 JUN 14:00 2013 UNTIL 22 AUG 23:59 2013. CREATED: 01 JUN 13:40 2013

The Instrument Landing System (ILS) for runway 28L has been out of service since June 1. What that means for a pilot flying is unclear right now; if the pilots were trying to use the ILS as supplementary guidance for their visual approach it may have simply not worked (red flag shows up on the panel and no information is given), or it may give erroneous information with no indication that the system is not working. I can see a situation (and this is PURE SPECULATION) with a flight crew with little experience flying into SFO, not checking the NOTAMs or forgetting them, flying the approach with an ILS giving false readings, getting distracted in the cockpit for one reason or another, and suddenly half the plane is floating in the bay.

That storify link is good - listen to the ATC recording. Right about the one minute mark everything goes to hell. Right about 0:47 the controller starts giving an instruction, there's a commotion, and he cuts out. Once transmissions pick up again at about 1:00 one aircraft has already decided to go around and the tower is closing the SFO airspace to incoming traffic. The flight crew in the accident airplane seem to be alert and responding to the tower later in the transmission.

Number one, did the pilots survive? And number two, why are there huge holes in the roof of the plane?

You can hear them on the ATC recording responding to tower's statement that emergency services are en route. In an accident like this they were probably in the safest part of the plane.

Holes are indeed from the fire; jet fuel burns very hot and aluminum melts at a relatively low temperature. There are a few other holes that look like they were caused by emergency services - they have firefighting trucks that are designed to penetrate the hull of the airplane in order to get water inside without having to involve actual people climbing into the plane.

Is there video of this?

Probably not, unfortunately. There's no requirement to videotape the runways, but it's possible a surveillance camera on the terminal got lucky.

A runway is a runway - if you come up short on grass, a building, or a rock wall, you're going to crash with few exceptions.

Gotta disagree with you there. I mean, yes, if you land short there are going to be problems, but the terrain around an airport makes a huge difference. Look at the approaches for 28L at SFO (ILS, GPS). Those are 30-mile straight-in approaches over water; I think the only easier approach you could get is if angels floated your plane down on fluffy clouds. If you're flying through mountains, near obstacles, or just have a bunch of shit right at the end of the runway (tall trees, buildings) you've got to be much more aware of what's around you.
posted by backseatpilot at 5:59 AM on July 7, 2013 [41 favorites]


Picture from Asiana Airlines press conference - at center is the Asiana CEO.
posted by needled at 6:21 AM on July 7, 2013


An approach over water is safer than over land. There is nothing terrifying (or more so) about it. If you go down in water you have a better chance than of you hit the dirt. Lots of hyperbole here.
posted by spitbull at 6:38 AM on July 7, 2013


Also, the morons who grabbed their luggage could well be responsible for the deaths. Fucking idiots.
posted by spitbull at 6:38 AM on July 7, 2013


Look, we all know that taking luggage with you during an evacuation is a bad thing, but can we stop blaming these folks who had just been in a terrible plane crash for not thinking 100% correctly about what they were supposed to do in the few seconds they had to evacuate?
posted by kiltedtaco at 6:47 AM on July 7, 2013 [13 favorites]


Not only that, but it's worth pointing out that the flight attendants are safety officers first and food-and-drinks dispensers second. It's their job to make sure the 300 odd souls on board get out the doors before the whole thing goes up in flames. They deserve a lot of credit.

Absolutely. I can think of few occupations where the gap between what the duties are and what the public perception is are so wide. Almost eight years ago Air France 358 failed to stop on a rainy runway in Toronto and went off the end into a nearby creek; very quickly thereafter it caught fire. One of the exit slides failed to deploy; another deployed but had been punctured by debris and did not inflate. 313 souls aboard, including three wheelchair-bound passengers, one blind passenger and three infants, and within ninety seconds everyone was off and safe; twelve people were seriously injured and recovered in hospital.

Ninety seconds to evacuate hundreds of people from a crashed Airbus, with no warning until the thing departed the runway. A movie trailer is two minutes.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:47 AM on July 7, 2013 [16 favorites]


Also, the morons who grabbed their luggage could well be responsible for the deaths. Fucking idiots.



According to reports, the two middle-school girls who died were sitting in the back of the plane.

. .
posted by jgirl at 6:51 AM on July 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


They were (according to all reports) ejected from the plane during the crash. They were not related to the evacuation.
posted by kiltedtaco at 6:53 AM on July 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm having trouble faulting the people who grabbed their bags. I know they tell you not to do it, but the pics taken immediately after the crash look bad but not "on fire" bad. Passengers might not have realized what was coming next.
posted by double bubble at 7:08 AM on July 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


They could have killed people. I'm glad it appears they didn't. You've got maybe 2-3 minutes to evacuate 300 people out 6 or 8 slides. 5 seconds matter.
posted by spitbull at 7:10 AM on July 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


spitbull: "An approach over water is safer than over land. There is nothing terrifying (or more so) about it. If you go down in water you have a better chance than of you hit the dirt. Lots of hyperbole here."

Since it was partly my 'hyperbole' that you're objecting to, it seems worth pointing out that no one suggested approaches over land were safer, just that they're less scary. No one claimed they were being rational about fears.
posted by hoyland at 7:11 AM on July 7, 2013


. .

I'm dreaming of a world where two deaths from a road traffic accident are international news.
posted by wachhundfisch at 7:18 AM on July 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


Ok, sorry, I wasn't responding to any comment in particular. I fly every other week (sometimes in truly dangerous conditions on small planes) and find the survival miraculous, but the luggage-grabbing unconscionable because I imagined myself in seat 22D desperate to get out. Grrrrr.

No offense intended, hoyland.
posted by spitbull at 7:18 AM on July 7, 2013


ricochet biscuit: "failed to stop on a rainy runway"

Worth noting: There's a fairly low-tech system that's being deployed at many US airports that's proven to be extremely effective at preventing this kind of accident.
posted by schmod at 7:23 AM on July 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've seen a very insightful suggestion over on PPRuNe regarding the number of passengers seen to have taken hand baggage with them during the evacuation: modify overhead baggage compartments so that they lock when the 'seatbelts on' sign is lit.

There would be no problem with getting access during flight, except during turbulence, and that's probably when you don't want people opening the overhead compartments anyway. But during takeoff and landing - the two times when you might have to call an emergency evacuation - the lockers would be locked shut.

Yes, I expect there would be the odd idiot who tried to force one open as the cabin crew are yelling at everyone to GET OUT, but one or two people are more easily dealt with - by firm instructions or the wrath of everyone trapped behind - than several dozen.
posted by Major Clanger at 7:24 AM on July 7, 2013


If you're like me and want a high resolution, wide angle view of the site, here it is.

From this view it's clear that there are three very distinct debris fields. One between the seawall and the runway threshold, another near the final position of the airframe, and a third on the right side of the runway (left side of the photo) just past the runway touchdown zone (big solid white painted rectangles). I'm really baffled as to how that third debris field got there. One of the engines shot off to that side (ending up just out of frame), but it can't all be related to that, because you can see a baggage container over there too.

You can also see a line of police (?) on the right side of the image combing for debris.
posted by kiltedtaco at 7:26 AM on July 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


There were reports of luggage flying out of the overhead compartments when the plane crashed. It may be possible that people grabbed luggage and carried it out with them to clear the aisles. People tend to place their luggage near their seats, so it's not too unlikely that some passengers may have found their luggage blocking their way and just carried them out, and continued holding on to them once outside the plane.
posted by needled at 7:40 AM on July 7, 2013 [6 favorites]


It seems to me like the luggage that was being carried out was the stuff stored under the seat. It takes approximately no time to grab your go bag while you are waiting for your turn in the aisle. You can goddamn bet that if I can do it without affecting anyone, my backpack is going with me.

Is there video of this?

Probably not, unfortunately. There's no requirement to videotape the runways, but it's possible a surveillance camera on the terminal got lucky.


This is what is fascinating to me. We have security cams running everywhere, but not on runways? You'd think actual video footage of aircraft incidents would be an invaluable tool in improving safety. Even just the minor incidents like a pilot being able to say "wow, that was a rough landing- can I get a copy of that tape to see what I did wrong?"

Or even onboard surveillance video, for situations where the pilot doesn't know what's going on- rudder feels funny, check the video and see if it is flapping around. Landing gear indicator not giving proper information? Hit the video feed.
posted by gjc at 7:56 AM on July 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm really baffled as to how that third debris field got there. One of the engines shot off to that side (ending up just out of frame), but it can't all be related to that, because you can see a baggage container over there too.


If you look at the track the nosewheel made, you can see that the plane was spinning with some force. I think that the third debris field is stuff flung free of the tail as it spun.

Also, if you look at the right wing, it's apparent that it hit the ground - it's bent aft, and pretty torn up. I bet the plane did cartwheel a bit once the the tail section came off.

..

Wasn't there a plane that landed short - in the water - on that runway a few years ago ?
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:56 AM on July 7, 2013


I know crashing in water is more survivable than on land but I am terrified of water and you come down so low and so fast over the water (and water has less perspective than land so it's harder to tell how fast and how close) at SFO that I always feel like puking from fear. Landing short at SFO is literally my WORST flying fear -- not my most rational one!

My primate brain knows airliners are very safe and well engineered and that pilots are good at their jobs. My lizard brain, however, does not like being in the air, especially over water. Especially landing at SFO.

I'm sort of curious if I had to fly out there in the near future, if my rational knowledge would be able to master my anxiety after seeing this crash that is literally my worst flying fear, or if is have to fly onto a different airport to manage to get on the plane. But I don't foresee flying at all in the near future, certainly not out west, so it doesn't really matter either way. Fears are just interesting things, even when we know they're irrational.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:01 AM on July 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was a passenger on an emergency landing once and remember waiting patiently while the woman sitting made a futile attempt to methodically pack up her laptop while the cabin filled with smoke. I had to grab both of her shoulders, look her in the eye and tell her to just leave the laptop. She found me later and thanked me. Sometimes people do irrational things in a desperate effort to stay calm.
posted by any major dude at 8:06 AM on July 7, 2013 [21 favorites]


I don't know where these screengrabs from a video entering the rear of the plane are from, but I am amazed people were able to get out so rapidly. The back rows of seats are clearly just laying there, and there is a lot of debris. Also you can see that many of the overhead compartments are open.
posted by Big_B at 8:07 AM on July 7, 2013


Pogo_Fuzzybutt - Here's an article on a plane that landed short in 68. It was still flying years later.
posted by kipd at 8:08 AM on July 7, 2013


If a plane would land in the water while approaching SFO, the water is very shallow there (those numbers are in feet) so it probably wouldn't be too bad as long as you didn't hit the rock seawall.
posted by zsazsa at 8:13 AM on July 7, 2013


Does anyone know what the helicopter hovering over, like, 101 and the 3rd Ave. exit is doing this morning? I can't imagine they're getting much good footage of the airport from this distance. Or are TV cameras much more powerful than I think?
posted by purpleclover at 8:39 AM on July 7, 2013


I agree that CNN's coverage was terrible. When they were talking to Richard Quest about aviation instead of Miles O'Brien I figured they must have fired O'Brien, which they did a few years ago apparently. Someone is really on a mission to remove everyone competent from that channel.

How does Wolf Blitzer still have a job when his only skill is the ability to never end a sentence, but instead to just continue speaking breathlessly, as though each new phrase might impart some surprising new fact, despite all evidence to the contrary in the preceeding several minutes, and despite years of experience with his particular style of reportage, and yet somehow the channel would prefer to put him on the air over the reasonably professional style of Don Lemon?
posted by stopgap at 9:23 AM on July 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


I was on a flight that dropped a couple hundred feet flying near a thunderstorm. It was sudden and violent and fast and it hurt. I never had a problem with flying, but now that I know crashing hurts I definitely have some second thoughts about flying.
posted by nevercalm at 9:28 AM on July 7, 2013


Also, since I'm online for almost all my entertainment and viewing needs I got rid of cable. I onlly see brief snippets of CNN at work, but man it's more than enough. I used to have MSNBC or Al Jazeera on constantly in the background at home, but no more, man. I haven't missed it for a single second.
posted by nevercalm at 9:30 AM on July 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


The local news stations have had better coverage than the small amount of national/cable news I've watched for this. The cable news was full of absurd statements and I couldn't deal with it. Pull up KGO, KTVU, or KRON's websites and watch their coverage if you want slightly more informed coverage.
posted by gingerbeer at 9:34 AM on July 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


. .
posted by Golden Eternity at 9:35 AM on July 7, 2013


My lizard brain, however, does not like being in the air, especially over water. Especially landing at SFO.

Ever landed on 9R at PHL? It looks like you're going to end up in the Delaware.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 9:51 AM on July 7, 2013


It's a mess at SFO today. They've got both 28L and 28R closed; those are the main runways we usually use, and also the longest. Arrivals are delayed many hours. Transpacific departures are having to use a shorter runway which means planes have to be lighter; one friend's flight to Auckland is now making a fueling stop in Honolulu. Let's hope it doesn't get too windy; the crossing runways 01/19 that are still in service are at a right angle to the prevailing wind this time of year.


!SFO 07/048 (KSFO A1329/13) SFO RWY 10L/28R CLSD WEF 1307062310
!SFO 07/047 (KSFO A1328/13) SFO RWY 10R/28L CLSD WEF 1307062309
!SFO 07/046 (KSFO A1326/13) SFO RWY 28L PAPI OTS WEF 1307062219

posted by Nelson at 9:54 AM on July 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


I just saw on Facebook that a friend's previously SFO to Dulles direct flight is making a new stop in Sacramento to pick up stranded passengers, presumably from being diverted there yesterday. A mess all around indeed. But with only two deaths out of 300+ passengers it all could have been so much worse.
posted by marylynn at 9:59 AM on July 7, 2013


Chosun Ilbo has an illustration of what happened. In Korean but easy enough to understand. I imagine they have their sources but I would guess it might be more speculative than not at this point.

Also according to Chosun, Benjamin Levy (interviewed on the phone on MSNBC and probably elsewhere immediately after the incident) suffered broken ribs but still helped other passengers get off the plane before he exited himself. Source in Korean with photo of the man.
posted by shortfuse at 10:12 AM on July 7, 2013


Chosun Ilbo has an illustration of what happened.

I wonder how accurate that is. AV Herald has a map showing one of the gear struts in the bay; if the plane hit the seawall well aft of the landing gear, I can't see how one of the gear struts would wind up in the water.
posted by backseatpilot at 10:20 AM on July 7, 2013


How does Wolf Blitzer still have a job when his only skill is the ability to never end a sentence, but instead to just continue speaking breathlessly, as though each new phrase might impart some surprising new fact, despite all evidence to the contrary in the preceeding several minutes, and despite years of experience with his particular style of reportage, and yet somehow the channel would prefer to put him on the air over the reasonably professional style of Don Lemon?

In today's news environment? Because people generally don't turn the TV off when he's on it. He has no scandals, he has a cool name, and keeps it together on TV. Actual reporting skills? Who need's 'em? And also, Desert Storm.
posted by gjc at 10:25 AM on July 7, 2013


I wonder how accurate that is. AV Herald has a map showing one of the gear struts in the bay; if the plane hit the seawall well aft of the landing gear, I can't see how one of the gear struts would wind up in the water.

That doesn't seem to be accurate - for example, they show the nosegear has having come off, but you can clearly see where it scored the runway as the aircraft spun.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 10:25 AM on July 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I wonder how accurate that is. AV Herald has a map showing one of the gear struts in the bay; if the plane hit the seawall well aft of the landing gear, I can't see how one of the gear struts would wind up in the water.

The rear gear is the lowest thing on the plane when it is landing, followed by the tail. If the plane were low enough to tailstrike, then the gear hit something first. It probably got sheared off by the seawall, followed by the tail striking the seawall.

I would think that the landing gear does not hold up well to lateral forces. If you are having a hard landing, you probably want the gear to shear off (or collapse) and have the plane go on its belly rather than have the gear plunge up into the plane. Just like a steering column in a car.
posted by gjc at 10:31 AM on July 7, 2013


Because of the change in runways at SFO that Nelson referred to, planes are routing more directly over our house at a lower height, and therefore noisier, and it's a bit disconcerting.
posted by gingerbeer at 10:33 AM on July 7, 2013


.
posted by mistersquid at 10:40 AM on July 7, 2013


There's an old video of an MD-80 making a hard landing that's been floating around the forums this weekend. It shows that you don't need to strike the tail to knock it off; just give the whole plane a large enough jolt.

My (completely uninformed) opinion is that the landing gear struck the seawall, subsequently the plane hit the tarmac hard, and that jolt broke the tail off. It seems more likely than the plane being at such an angle to hit the tail directly.
posted by sbutler at 10:42 AM on July 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


That doesn't seem to be accurate - for example, they show the nosegear has having come off, but you can clearly see where it scored the runway as the aircraft spun.

Yeah, but you can see the nose gear truck right on the threshold lines - from the view of that photo, 4 lines to the right of the centerline. (Actually, looking closer I think the nose gear might be the set of wheels just to the left of the displaced threshold, right next to one of the taxi lines.) Looks like the axle fell off and the plane dragged the nose gear strut, sans wheels, down the runway to make that mark.

The rear gear is the lowest thing on the plane when it is landing, followed by the tail. If the plane were low enough to tailstrike, then the gear hit something first. It probably got sheared off by the seawall, followed by the tail striking the seawall.

That's what I was thinking, but that's not what the diagram shows. Since they have the flight data recorder intact, plus the huge number of survivors as eyewitnesses, I think it should be fairly easy to recreate the accident sequence.

I would think that the landing gear does not hold up well to lateral forces. If you are having a hard landing, you probably want the gear to shear off (or collapse) and have the plane go on its belly rather than have the gear plunge up into the plane. Just like a steering column in a car.

Airplane landing gear are insanely robust - a really hard landing will crack the airplane in half before taking the gear off. They do need to withstand fairly strong lateral forces; if there's a crosswind, the gear need to be able to hold up to the force of the plane dragging the wheels sideways as the plane comes in at an angle to the runway.
posted by backseatpilot at 10:44 AM on July 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah unfortunately that illustration doesn't really explain anything. Here's my list of open questions:

- Where did the main landing gear first hit the ground? It looks like they all ended up on the runway, which suggests they did not hit the seawall
- Where did the fuselage hit the ground? Looks like it was roughly around the piano keys/numbers.
- Why is the right wing the damaged one, when the airplane ended up on the left of the runway?
- Did the plane spin? I think the presence of (what I call) debris field #3 suggests it must have.
- If it spun,
- Which engine is which? If the left engine ended up on the right side of the runway, how did it cross the airframe to get there? If that was the right side engine, why do the scrapes originate on the left side of the runway.

The rear gear is the lowest thing on the plane when it is landing, followed by the tail.

This is not true if the aircraft is pitching up more than a few degrees above the normal landing flare attitude, which is something the pilots may certainly have tried to do when they realized they were short of the runway.

If you are having a hard landing, you probably want the gear to shear off (or collapse) and have the plane go on its belly rather than have the gear plunge up into the plane.

100% true and exactly how landing gear are designed. There are specific pins in the structure that are designed to fail under a certain load.
posted by kiltedtaco at 10:51 AM on July 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


You can see the nose gear skid marks but no main gear skid marks. It should be easy to determine if/where the main gear came off. If the main gear are indeed in the water, they must have struck before the tail.
posted by JackFlash at 10:52 AM on July 7, 2013


You can goddamn bet that if I can do it without affecting anyone, my backpack is going with me.

While you might handle your luggage with the grace of an Olympic rhythmic gymnast and the assured strength of a sherpa, the travelers I am familiar with drop suitcases on heads, get themselves wedged in aisles, mindlessly strain against a strap wrapped around an armrest, and are completely oblivious to anything other than their narrow self-interest, whether it be connecting, disabled, or in mortal danger. Zero tolerance for emergency bag carriers. If your carry on bags are in danger, then you can be damn sure that human lives are in danger, so just leave them. If nothing else, your carrying of a bag cues those behind you that this is acceptable behavior.
posted by eddydamascene at 12:34 PM on July 7, 2013 [8 favorites]


If you're someone who would try to bring your bag with you during an emergency plane evacuation, please just make peace with the dorkiness and carry your passport, phone and a credit card in a neck wallet under your shirt. (Pretty please??)
posted by argonauta at 1:31 PM on July 7, 2013


Apparently a spotter managed to take some video: http://www.cnn.com/video/data/2.0/video/us/2013/07/07/vo-plane-sf-plane-crash-on-cam.courtesy-fred-hayes.html
posted by dominik at 1:41 PM on July 7, 2013 [9 favorites]


That video goes a long way to explaining why some eyewitnesses thought it cartwheeled. It looks like a wing dug into the ground and pulled it upwards as if it would flip and threw up a cloud of dirt so you couldn't see so clearly that in the end it didn't. It also looks like a perfectly normal landing path (to my amateur eye) just shifted way too far out.
posted by marylynn at 1:46 PM on July 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


If you're someone who would try to bring your bag with you during an emergency plane evacuation

I dunno, by the time that I'm in a plane that's ever about to land I usually have my messenger bag in my lap. It would literally not affect anyone behind me to take it with me, and would probably take more time for me to get it around my head to drop it on the ground.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:57 PM on July 7, 2013


According to NTSB press conference, flight data recorder showed engines at idle during much of approach descent, and then flight cockpit voice recorder got the stick shaker activating 7 seconds before crash, and flight data recorder showed command for increased engine power at 4 seconds before impact, coincident with a verbal call for a "go around" missed approach procedure. Flight data recorder shows engines responding to control input for increased power at 4 seconds before crash, normally. Airspeed at onset of stick shaker activation was 137 knots.

All that means essentially, is that it is very likely the pilots stalled the aircraft near the end of a manually flown approach, and couldn't recover it due to insufficient altitude and speed. Otherwise known as "controlled flight into terrain" and, very likely, in 6 months or so, a primary cause ruling of "pilot error."
posted by paulsc at 2:12 PM on July 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


The thing about evacuation slides is that they're things which have a >0.1% chance of breaking your leg per ride. I think that it's reasonable to make sure there's no risk of leaving debris at the bottom of the slide. If you wouldn't jump down from a tree branch holding a bag, you shouldn't evacuate a plane holding it.
posted by ambrosen at 2:14 PM on July 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


Patients have fractured spines, stretched ligaments and head injuries
While many children were aboard the plane and have been treated, they appear to have escaped the kinds of spinal injuries seen in the adults, Manley says. “Most of the severe injuries were in adults,” he said.

"We don't have too many severely injured children," Knudson agreed.

“I think kids are typically more flexible,” Manley said. “They have a lower center of gravity. Little kids are made to rough and tumble. They do weather injuries well.”
posted by maggieb at 3:03 PM on July 7, 2013


That was a really quick turnaround on the data recorders. I guess it's easier when they haven't been buried under the ocean for months. Interesting that they didn't make any mention of the terrain warning system activating, only the stick shaker.

Someone mentioned the PAPI was out of service when they were landing, but I don't that's the case. The NOTAM was issued concurrent with the other ones when the airport closed, so I think the plane took it out when it crashed.
posted by backseatpilot at 3:49 PM on July 7, 2013


Amanda Ripley in The Unthinkable has this to say about taking bags while evacuating a plane crash:
About half of all passengers try to take their carry-on with them in an evacuation . . . Later, plane-crash survivors report that these collected carry-on bags posed a major obstacle to getting out quickly and safely. People tripped on them as they groped through the darkness, and the bags became weapons as they hurtled down the evacuation slides.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 4:02 PM on July 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


Someone mentioned the PAPI was out of service when they were landing, but I don't that's the case.

The glideslope has been disabled since June apparently due to construction to extend the runways, which I think was mandated by the FAA.

SFO 'glide slope' inoperable during Saturday's crash
SFO runways to be lengthened for safety
posted by Golden Eternity at 4:06 PM on July 7, 2013


Airspeed at onset of stick shaker activation was 137 knots.

The NTSB says that airspeed was "significantly below" 137 knots. Which, if the stick shaker comes on at 137 is particularly worrisome - you don't ever really want to be below stall speed that close to the ground.

Whats the spin up time on those engines ? There has to be at least a 5-7 second delay between control input and delivery of power. That plane was crashed well before they called for a go around.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 4:09 PM on July 7, 2013


The glideslope has been disabled since June apparently due to construction to extend the runways, which I think was mandated by the FAA.

Different systems. The glide slope is part of the ILS system which is for instrument approaches. The PAPI is a set of four lights on the side of the runway for visual approaches; depending on where you are on the glide path, the lights will change from white to red to tell you you're too low. They're usually about a thousand feet down the runway off to one side.
posted by backseatpilot at 4:20 PM on July 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


my bad.
posted by Golden Eternity at 4:21 PM on July 7, 2013


ambrosen: "The thing about evacuation slides is that they're things which have a >0.1% chance of breaking your leg per ride. I think that it's reasonable to make sure there's no risk of leaving debris at the bottom of the slide."

I don't have a horse in the carry on tangent, but if you break your leg on the slide, wouldn't YOU be the debris at the bottom?
posted by danny the boy at 4:25 PM on July 7, 2013


Also, if you up-to-the-minute, reliable information on the crash, follow the NTSB on Twitter. They really know how to use the service right, and they just posted a bunch of photos from the accident scene.
posted by backseatpilot at 4:26 PM on July 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Usually my only carryon is a backpack with my camera, lenses, laptops, basically the only things that matter to me in this world. Sorry, but without that stuff, I'd be dead anyway, so I might as well just go down with the ship.
posted by nevercalm at 4:26 PM on July 7, 2013


which twitter account is the for-real NTSB? I've been bitten before. . .
posted by KathrynT at 4:26 PM on July 7, 2013


@NTSB
posted by backseatpilot at 4:27 PM on July 7, 2013


"... Whats the spin up time on those engines ? There has to be at least a 5-7 second delay between control input and delivery of power. That plane was crashed well before they called for a go around."
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:09 PM on July 7

Early turbofan engines suffered from "spool up lag," which was a delay between inputs for more engine power, and actual creation of that power, due to the need for the compressor discs to increase speed enough to cause significantly more combustion air to be pre-compressed. But this has largely been eliminated in modern high-bypass turbofan engines used on jetliners, which even at low power settings, always have excess compressed air available from the bypass air stream, as well as from the normal compressor discs. Modern high bypass engines are almost never combustion air starved, unless they take a bird or foreign object into the intake, which destroys or clogs the bypass or compressor stage turbine fans. Essentially, in a modern jetliner, as soon as a pilot moves the throttles, the engines respond with increased thrust, according to published power settings curves.
posted by paulsc at 5:00 PM on July 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Sorry, but without that stuff, I'd be dead anyway, so I might as well just go down with the ship.

I don't care if you and your stuff go down with the ship. I do care if your stuff makes me go down with the ship.

(Actually, I lied, I would care if you went down with the ship. Please don't take your bags with you when your plane has just crash landed and the slides have popped. If your equipment is that important, I strongly recommend backups and insurance.)
posted by longdaysjourney at 5:02 PM on July 7, 2013 [10 favorites]


And now for no particular reason, a musical interlude: Brian Eno's song Burning Airlines Give You So Much More.

Testify, brother.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 5:33 PM on July 7, 2013


Usually my only carryon is a backpack with my camera, lenses, laptops, basically the only things that matter to me in this world. Sorry, but without that stuff, I'd be dead anyway, so I might as well just go down with the ship.

I mean, they'll pay you to replace that stuff. And probably a lot more on top of that. And, you know, BackBlaze.
posted by disillusioned at 5:41 PM on July 7, 2013


I'm backed up in two sites, I'm not worried about that. But they'd pay me to replace like 10 grand in cameras and lenses and a couple jacked up mac laptops without receipts? I think I'd be shit out of luck.
posted by nevercalm at 5:46 PM on July 7, 2013


We're not talking lost luggage here. My ex had some expensive clothing in a suitcase they lost on vacation. I think they gave her $250 for ALL her clothes. My confidence and trust does not like with the airline industry.

I do need to look at insurance, now that I'm thinking about it.
posted by nevercalm at 5:49 PM on July 7, 2013


I mean, if you're carrying around $10k worth of photo equipment and doing location work, insurance is a must. Pretty silly to go down with your equipment! Having said that, I can relate to the sentiment.
posted by phaedon at 5:52 PM on July 7, 2013


doing location work

I wish. Just vacations.

Jeez, sorry about the epic derail. Anyone hear a plane crashed yesterday?
posted by nevercalm at 5:54 PM on July 7, 2013


http://flyingprofessors.net/what-happened-to-asiana-airlines-flight-214-2/ - good writeup
posted by Eideteker at 6:45 PM on July 7, 2013 [6 favorites]


Hrm.
Asiana Airlines Inc said the pilot in charge of landing the Boeing 777 that crash-landed at San Francisco's airport on Saturday was training for the long-range plane and that it was his first flight to the airport with the jet.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 6:54 PM on July 7, 2013


I'm really enjoying the NTSB's twitter feed. Particularly this ice burn...
posted by danny the boy at 8:05 PM on July 7, 2013


In addition to causing delays in evacuating the plane, your carry on bags can potentially cause rips and holes in the evacuation slide when you're getting out, leaving the slide unusable. Please just leave your bags behind, so you and everyone else can get out safely.
posted by jaksemas at 8:05 PM on July 7, 2013


nevercalm: "I wish. Just vacations."

Get a rider on your homeowner's/renter's policy for your gear. Keep your memory cards on your person at all times during homeward travel.
posted by notsnot at 8:15 PM on July 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Official: SF plane crash victim may have been run over
posted by gingerbeer at 8:40 PM on July 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Get a rider on your homeowner's/renter's policy for your gear.

From experience I can say that those riders tend to distinguish between in-home and on location theft/loss and don't offer competitive rates for the latter. Better to go with photography-specific insurance.

posted by phaedon at 8:50 PM on July 7, 2013


hmm, gingerbeer's link references "a runway video recording of the first seconds of the crash" from "a pretty good vantage point." I wonder if this is something not yet released? That poor girl... and the firefighters.
posted by maggieb at 9:46 PM on July 7, 2013


paulsc: "Essentially, in a modern jetliner, as soon as a pilot moves the throttles, the engines respond with increased thrust, according to published power settings curves."

Which is likely why one engine is several hundred yards down the runway. Clearly, it was generating thrust at the time. Perhaps only one engine responded immediately, thus causing the plane to bank unexpectedly and prevent recovery from the stall. It'll be interesting to see what turns up upon further analysis of the flight data recorder.

The pilots appear to have put themselves in a very bad place trying to recover from being over the glideslope. Perhaps it will turn out mechanical failure turned bad into worse, but they really should have called a go around a long, long way before they did. Or failing that, resigned themselves to landing farther down the runway. It was an 11,000 foot runway. Even if they overshot a couple of thousand feet they would have been plenty of room to spare.

That said, we should all be thankful that plane crashes have been made quite rare thanks to effective (albeit expensive) regulation. Big government, doing it's job quietly.

I really shouldn't second guess at all, and this is obviously speculation from what little data is available
posted by wierdo at 9:47 PM on July 7, 2013


Yeesh.
The evacuation of Asiana Flight 214 began badly. Even before the mangled jetliner began filling with smoke, two evacuation slides on the doors inflated inside the cabin instead of outside, pinning two flight attendants to the floor.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 6:57 AM on July 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Press conference in Korean of Lee Yoon-hye (YT), the flight attendant from Pogo_Fuzzybutt's linked article who was described by the SF fire chief as a hero.

Some other details mentioned by Lee but not in the philly.com article:

- She went to check on the pilot's status once the plane stopped. Pilot said he was ok. They asked on the intercom for people to stay seated 3 times to keep people from panicking, then once she was told to carry out emergency exit procedure, she shouted "emergency evacuation" 3 times and moved on to helping people.
- She had no idea the tail had come off. She only knew thru the news later.
- She saw some people trying to take their luggage. She yelled at them to leave the bags behind and exit. The ones she yelled at complied.
- Regarding reports that she was helping passengers while crying, she said a passenger was crying because of a missing kid, but they quickly found that another attendant had grabbed the kid and exited the plane already. She cried together with the relieved passenger when they both realized the child was safe.
- She felt her mind was clear and her body moved automatically, thanks to the emergency procedure prep / training. She doesn't really recall how many people she helped evac or how long it took.
- Background: she was a company model employee 14 times out of the 19 years she has been working, and she was selected to serve on the presidential plane during 2000-2003.
posted by shortfuse at 7:11 AM on July 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


This hasn't been mentioned as a factor, but I'm just curious - on a Korean plane with many Chinese and American passengers, in what language are announcements given?
posted by desjardins at 7:17 AM on July 8, 2013


Pretty sure it's all of them if the flight departed from Shanghai - Korean, English, Chinese.
posted by shortfuse at 7:22 AM on July 8, 2013


More bits from from Chosun Ilbo:
- Korean gov't investigative team interviewed 4 operators (pilot, etc.) for 3 hours. They said "the plane altitude was too low so we tried to lift the plane up but not enough power was generated (not as much as expected)." [Source]
- Similar accident occurred in Japan in March 2012. JAL plane (Boeing 777-200 ER) was landing, tried to lift up, tail hit the ground, damaging about 11m of the tail. Still no final report yet on what happened in that case. [Source]
- Photo of the 2 dead Chinese teenagers (SFW) taken before the trip. Heartbreaking.

Based on the first 2 articles, to me it seems like the newspaper is trying to highlight the possibility of mechanical error more than that of human error - trying to pre-emptively protect the Korean pilots from blame. Reflexive maybe, but still somewhat questionable editorial bent.
posted by shortfuse at 7:37 AM on July 8, 2013


Essentially, in a modern jetliner, as soon as a pilot moves the throttles, the engines respond with increased thrust, according to published power settings curves.

I went and looked it up. The certification requires that engines go from "flight idle" to go around thrust in less than 6 seconds. The best info I can find on the Pratt and Whitney engines on that 777 are 4-5 seconds from idle to full thrust.

Add in the inertia of a 400,000+ lb aircraft, and there is no way that he was going to recover from that stall when he throttled up at ~4 seconds before impact.

The pilot apparently had 10,000 hours in a 737, and only 40ish on the 777. I have to wonder if old habits are at fault here.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:10 AM on July 8, 2013


Third of four runways reopens at SFO, officials say. They got 28R open yesterday afternoon. Here's a creepy photo of someone landing next to the wrecked aircraft. 28L, the runway with the accident, is still closed.

Please be careful with the term "stall," it is a precise technical term. Airplanes can be too slow or low without stalling. The slow flight characteristics on a big aircraft like a 777 are very complex.
posted by Nelson at 8:16 AM on July 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yes, stalling is a technical term. It's almost like a skid on ice in a car. Very basically, it is when the plane is at an attitude (angle) when its wings quit working and it starts to sort of slip backwards-ish. The wiki article describes it technically, but a way to visualize it is to remember that the lift on the aircraft is always perpendicular to the fuselage- NOT perpendicular to gravity. So to keep itself flying, the plane needs to be above its stall speed in the direction the aircraft is pointing. If you ever did that thing where you stick your hand out the window of a car and make it fly up and down, you can understand what happens. You can only pitch your hand so much before you lose lift and your hand gets pulled backwards.

The thing people don't intuitively understand about flying is that pulling back on the stick doesn't make the aircraft go up. It just makes it *point* up. The throttle is what makes the plane *go* up.

From looking at the footage, it might have been in a stall after it lost its tail. But that seems like it was a consequence of the crash, not a cause of it. Since the tail is what keeps the plane pointing in the right direction. No tail means no attitude control.
posted by gjc at 9:10 AM on July 8, 2013


The stick shaker going off is a stall warning. Granted, there is no definite stall/not stall point - it's a gradient - so you can go round and round on whether he was in stall or not. I don't think he was fully stalled - but rather in that soft moment just before it. When I've done stall training, that was my favorite part - how heavy and mushy the air felt just before departure.

I get the feeling that the pilot went throttle up, and nose high just before impact. Because of the lag in thrust, he wallowed and hit the seawall. He wasn't fully stalled, but even if had more altitude to work with, he was asking a lot of his energy state there.

I also suspect that this flare probably saved a bunch of lives - if you want to dump energy, go nose up at or near stall speed.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:28 AM on July 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Pretty sure it's all of them if the flight departed from Shanghai - Korean, English, Chinese.

I think this depends on the airline/crew. I've been on a flight from Frankfurt to the US where the departure announcements were read in English and German, but the German was clearly being read off a piece of paper by someone who didn't speak German. There was no way the crew could have directed people in German in an emergency (just as well it was a flight where most of the passengers seemed to have some connection to the US military). On the way to Germany that trip, one of the flight attendants came on repeated in German every announcement from the cockpit. You'd hope they'd have someone who could speak Chinese reasonably well, but what 'reasonably well' means seems to vary pretty wildly.
posted by hoyland at 9:40 AM on July 8, 2013


She yelled at them to leave the bags behind and exit. The ones she yelled at complied.

This hasn't been mentioned as a factor, but I'm just curious - on a Korean plane with many Chinese and American passengers, in what language are announcements given?


I'm my experience flying from Amsterdam to Seoul, when a flight attendant yells at a panicking (unnecessarily on that occasion) passenger,
a) they yell in English
b) the passenger complies. Like a civilian would if yelled at by a drill sergeant.
posted by ambrosen at 10:00 AM on July 8, 2013


SFO's PAPI "While the electronic glideslope of the instrument landing system on Runway 28L at SFO was not operational on Saturday morning, when Asiana Flight 214 undershot Runway 28L and hit the sea wall, a visual-based precision system called the “PAPI” was available, according to the National Transportation Safety Board."

If you see a NOTAM for the PAPI being out of service, check the date. "PAPI was in service but the accident destroyed it."
posted by morganw at 10:05 AM on July 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


There are a dozen reasons to leave your stuff behind while evacuating, all to do with increasing the probability of getting everyone else out safely.

Taking your stuff during an evacuation is the most selfish action possible. It can easily cost someone's life.

If you are so attached to your stuff, please do everyone a favour and remain on the plane until everyone else has made it out. In my opinion it's better that you die clutching your precious stuff, than for someone else die—or even be badly hurt—because you decided to put your stuff ahead of their safety.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:09 AM on July 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


Maybe airlines should equip all overhead compartments with individual ejector devices and miniature parachutes. That way, at the first sign of trouble, all the passengers' valuable stuff gets launched out away from the plummeting aircraft, then gently floats down to Earth to await reclamation by its rightful owners, should they survive.
posted by Atom Eyes at 10:21 AM on July 8, 2013


Askthepilot:

On Saturday afternoon, an Asiana Airlines Boeing 777 crash-landed at San Francisco International Airport killing at least two passengers and injuring dozens more, many of them seriously.

Before getting to the accident itself, I’d like to express my dismay over the media’s shamelessly sensationalistic coverage of it. A certain degree of network hyperventilation always follows air crashes, but this time, from the absurd eyewitness accounts to the at times wildly inaccurate commentary of various aviation “experts,” they’ve taken things to a new level of inanity, ridiculousness and poor taste.

One thing sorely missing has been a sense of perspective. I don’t mean to diminish the seriousness of what happened. It’s a tragedy when anybody is killed in an airplane crash. However, the vast majority of the passengers on Asiana 214 made it off the airplane alive. This simply was not an air disaster of the scale that was once relatively common, and is not deserving of terms like “catastrophe.”

Moreover this was the first multiple-fatality crash involving a major airline in North America since November, 2001. The streak has ended, but it lasted nearly twelve years, with some 20,000 commercial jetliners taking off and landing safely in this country every single day — an astonishing run. Is it perverse to suggest that Saturday’s accident, awful as it was, serves to underscore just how safe commercial flying has become?

That’s asking an awful lot, I know, in this race-to-the-bottom era of news coverage, when speed and sizzle — the need to grab and hold, for however long, the ever-shrinking attention span of the average viewer or reader — not accuracy or context, are all that really count.

posted by gingerbeer at 10:22 AM on July 8, 2013 [14 favorites]


Moreover this was the first multiple-fatality crash involving a major airline in North America since November, 2001.

OTOH, there were two multiple-fatality crashes of regional planes in that time period (Colgan 3407 and Comair 5191). To a pilot, maybe that's a big distinction, but as a flyer, your ticket on a "major airline" could easily include a segment on one of those planes.
posted by smackfu at 11:16 AM on July 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


I've often wondered whether I'd think about my under-seat bag in an evacuation. It has my laptop and my iPad in it, so of course it's precious to me. And I could see how you might grab it instinctively or grab it to get it out of the way on your way out. But if you have 90 seconds to get 300 people out of an airplane, every single second and every single inch matters to someone behind you in line, and as I understand it the protocol is supposed to be "do not grab your luggage" in most such situations. Even if everyone doing that added 20 seconds total to the evacuation it could cost lives, right? I'm just speculating, of course. I like to think I'd make the smart move and leave it under the seat, but of course no one ever knows what s/he will do in that sort of crisis until s/he's experienced it.
posted by spitbull at 11:18 AM on July 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


gjc: "The thing people don't intuitively understand about flying is that pulling back on the stick doesn't make the aircraft go up. It just makes it *point* up. The throttle is what makes the plane *go* up."

That depends entirely on how much, if any, excess energy you have. If you're flying faster than stall speed, you can indeed make the plane go up by pulling back on the stick even with zero throttle. (converting airspeed to altitude) If you're already flying too slowly, however, that is a great way to end up on the ground unexpectedly when physics converts altitude to airspeed whether you like it or not.

Pogo_Fuzzybutt: "I also suspect that this flare probably saved a bunch of lives - if you want to dump energy, go nose up at or near stall speed."

Heh, I've been thinking the flare and last second call for full power is what got two people killed and started the fire, but maybe they were lower than I think they were and coming in at a lower angle of attack would have put the nose straight into the rocks. Based on the ADS-B data (not the radar data from flightaware which is lower resolution), it looked to me like the nose never got that low and the tail only did because of the last second go around attempt.
posted by wierdo at 12:45 PM on July 8, 2013


Exactly. I think if he hadn't flared right then, he would have slammed the plane into the ground right about where the seawall is. I can't imagine the outcome of that being better than what did occur; but maybe.

Anyway, my larger point about his being screwed long before the imminent stall warning and the throttle up remains. By the time he (apparently) started doing anything it was already over. I would guess that the accident was unavoidable ~20 seconds prior to impact, possibly more, depending.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 1:12 PM on July 8, 2013


Pogo_Fuzzybutt: "Anyway, my larger point about his being screwed long before the imminent stall warning and the throttle up remains. By the time he (apparently) started doing anything it was already over. I would guess that the accident was unavoidable ~20 seconds prior to impact, possibly more, depending."

Oh, absolutely. Getting into that situation is inexcusable. We should not be speculating on whether a change in attitude would have allowed the tail to clear the sea wall. It required a long series of poor decisions to reach that point. They should have gone for the go around when they were at 800' with an 1800 fpm descent rate and speed decaying below Vref, if not a lot earlier.

Since we are, the reasoning behind my thoughts is that when you're already at stall speed, you gain no altitude by pulling back on the stick, all you do is lower the tail and raise the nose, assuming that you still have any control authority at all. This tends to shorten your glide, and in this case, cause early contact with the ground and a subsequent hard impact on the front of the plane. Not to mention that you run the risk of dipping a wing, too.
posted by wierdo at 2:12 PM on July 8, 2013


"... I went and looked it up. The certification requires that engines go from "flight idle" to go around thrust in less than 6 seconds. The best info I can find on the Pratt and Whitney engines on that 777 are 4-5 seconds from idle to full thrust.

Add in the inertia of a 400,000+ lb aircraft, and there is no way that he was going to recover from that stall when he throttled up at ~4 seconds before impact. ..."

posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 11:10 AM on July 8

I think you're confusing the intentions of engine designers and the actions of digital engine management systems to avoid compressor stalls, with some kind of control lag. No engine designer intends, and no engine management system will normally permit, an instantaneous step function style transition from idle power to full power, simply because trying to do so, with even with best commercial aircraft style high bypass engines, is a great way to induce no power through a compressor stall, perhaps leading to what is colloquially known as a "flameout." Back in the '50s, there were several commercial jet accidents attributed to this very control problem, and engines now are careful built and operated to avoid it. But modern engines will began producing some additional power nearly immediately as soon as the throttles begin being advanced, and will continue to build power as quickly as air intake will permit.

In the case of an airliner flying near sea level, almost in a nose up stall condition, the amount of ram air effect into the engine turbines is pretty minimal, and the engine is not going to be able to respond to demands for increased power as quickly as it might at higher speeds, and lower angles of attack. The "full power" you seem to think the machine failed to deliver quickly, was never actually available at that speed and attitude situation, and the engine management system knew it, 10,000 times in every final second of that flight, and did what it could to deliver what was possible, with, I suspect, very little "lag" of any kind.

Most flight control systems work this way. You don't get "full flaps" from a zero flaps cruise condition, instantaneously, just because you throw a control lever to a certain position. And it's not just because the flap surfaces have to move through all the in between positions, with some inherent lag. It's because of the need to maintain controlled, balanced flight through changing aerodynamic and attitude profiles, which is best done by coordinated changes in control surfaces, wing configurations, engine settings, and attitude, with careful respect to changing airspeed, altitude, and attitude.

The inertia of the aircraft didn't help, but had the plane not been in a near stall condition, if not in a complete stall, the lift produced by the wings would have been sufficient to keep the plane airborne. Mainly what happened is that plane simply ran out of lift and airspeed, a couple hundred yards short of the end of the runway. The control surfaces were all becoming mushy as a result, and it may have even gotten in stall conditions on the elevator surfaces at the tail, which would have further complicated stall recovery because of loss of response to pitch command changes. It will be interesting to see whether or not the pilots ever applied "nose down" yoke control, along with increased throttle. I think its a fair bet that even if they did, the aircraft could not respond, lowering the nose, due to loss of airflow across its elevator control surfaces, while it still even had a complete empennage.
posted by paulsc at 2:18 PM on July 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Like several folks commenting here, I'm a pilot (of very small aircraft). I've learned two things. First, takeoff and landings are the most dangerous parts of a flight and you better sit down and fasten your damn seatbelt. Second, it's very easy to speculate about accident causes but it's much better to wait until NTSB issues the report. They do an excellent job analyzing crash causes, from quick preliminaries to comprehensive final reports.

To that end, NTSB had a press conference today. And about half of what they said debunks previously reported and discussed "facts". The most alarming thing they reported today was the plane got as slow as 103kts. That's consistent with an approach that was going to come in short of the runway and the plane not having enough energy (speed or altitude) to clear the threshold. I'm certain we'll find out if that's the case and if so, what led the plane to get into that position.
posted by Nelson at 2:35 PM on July 8, 2013


So, pilots - two things I've been wondering. We talked a little about this earlier on, but is SFO known for having particularly difficult approaches?

And if the pilot was a relative newcomer to this model of plane, is it normal that he would have been assigned to a route that involved landing at an airport with a difficult approach - or do airlines make an effort to only assign "difficult" airports to more experienced pilots?
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:45 PM on July 8, 2013


LobsterMitten: "We talked a little about this earlier on, but is SFO known for having particularly difficult approaches? "

I'm not a pilot, but backseatpilot said this upthread:
Look at the approaches for 28L at SFO (ILS, GPS). Those are 30-mile straight-in approaches over water; I think the only easier approach you could get is if angels floated your plane down on fluffy clouds.

posted by tonycpsu at 2:55 PM on July 8, 2013


I've never landed a plane at SFO and I don't have any experience in jets or large aircraft. But it seems like a simple enough approach to me. Straight in, long wide runway, coming in over water is mostly no big deal. The pilot at the controls (Lee Kang-guk) had landed 747s many times at SFO and in general was a very experienced pilot. Everyone's pointing to pilot error right now, but it's really too early to say that for certain. Particularly with a new kind of aircraft.

Here's my question for commercial pilots: do they follow the GPS approach as guidance when doing a visual approach? I imagine the ILS would be preferred, but with it out of service would they switch to the LPV instead? That'd make perfect sense in a little plane, but I know the instruments in a commercial jet are quite different.
posted by Nelson at 2:56 PM on July 8, 2013


Ah, yes tonypcsu, thanks!
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:01 PM on July 8, 2013


So, other than pilot error, what general kinds of things might lead the plane to be coming in too slow? Wrong/missing information from the ground being sent to the plane? Wrong functioning of an instrument or system on the plane?
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:03 PM on July 8, 2013


I'm glad you pointed that out. Everyone is starting to point to pilot error because the pilot didn't have much experience on a 777. But if the pilot was checked out enough to be sitting up front in the first place, he or she will have had plenty of similar experience. Plus plenty of simulator time. I would hazard a guess that a 747 is much more "heavy" to fly than a 777.

It could still be pilot error, but not because of lack of experience.

SFO's PAPI "While the electronic glideslope of the instrument landing system on Runway 28L at SFO was not operational on Saturday morning, when Asiana Flight 214 undershot Runway 28L and hit the sea wall, a visual-based precision system called the “PAPI” was available, according to the National Transportation Safety Board."

If the PAPI system was working, then the lack of ILS should have been irrelevant. PAPI is one of those great old elegant systems that are basically foolproof. It's basically three lights pointed toward the approach. They have shades on them so they can only be seen from a certain angle. If you are on the slope, you can see the white light. If you are outside of it, you see red lights.

But even then, I'm pretty sure they were so close to the runway that the pilot should have been on pure visual. I forget the rules, but there are decision heights where the pilot has to have the runway in sight or do a go around.
posted by gjc at 3:05 PM on July 8, 2013


What could cause a plane to be flying too low or slow? Engine failure. Throttle failure. Engine control failure. Fuel delivery failure. Flight control failure. Airspeed indicator failure. Power indicator failure. Etc, etc. Airplane systems are quite redundant so even in the case of some equipment failure, the pilot should still be able to make a safe landing. But we really don't know if a systems failure might have contributed to the crash. The NTSB will figure it out and then we will know.

Meantime, if you want to indulge a desire to take apart airplane accidents caused by pilot error, the final report on AF 447 is terrifying reading. I don't have a good summary of the final, but this overview of the preliminary is quite good.
posted by Nelson at 3:11 PM on July 8, 2013


"... We talked a little about this earlier on, but is SFO known for having particularly difficult approaches? ..."

Because of the Bay, the weather at SFO is often foggy/rainy below visual flight rule (VFR) minimums, necessitating instrument flight rule (IFR) flown approaches (and even IFR approaches, other than fully automated ones, expect the pilots to come into visual contact with runway about 100 feet above ground level, and slight short of the runway, and then fly it down visually). When there is rough weather coming in off the Pacific, nasty, dangerous low level wind shear conditions, that sometimes close the airport, can develop. But the weather at the time of the crash Saturday was excellent, and the plane was cleared by the airport tower for a VFR approach.

What's going to be really interesting about this investigation is what the guy in the right seat was doing/thinking all the while this approach was being flown. According to early reports about the contents of the flight voice recorders, there is no major indication of pilot/co-pilot disagreement about the approach. Which means, at least at this point, that, if normal flight crew task assignments and Crew Resource Management protocols were in use, not one, but two experienced commercial pilots thought things were lining up for a smooth landing, right up until the moment they weren't.
posted by paulsc at 3:14 PM on July 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


Maybe we'll be treated to some speculation on Korean social mores as it affects CRM.
posted by Nelson at 3:18 PM on July 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


So, other than pilot error, what general kinds of things might lead the plane to be coming in too slow? Wrong/missing information from the ground being sent to the plane? Wrong functioning of an instrument or system on the plane?

The altimeters work off of air pressure and need to be set to the local atmospheric pressure or they will read wrong. (I'm sure the 777 also has a GPS system, but I think the altimeter is the controlling instrument.) It's kind of doubtful the information from the tower was wrong though, because the last plane landing would have radioed the tower to say "hey, wrong pressure." Also, as paulsc says, no matter how right or wrong the info from the ground was, they were sort of past that point. They were at the hands on the yoke and land the plane by hand point.

They could also have had the wrong height of the runway. It's published at feet above sea level, and I suppose it is possible for the pilot to have misjudged the height of the runway versus local tide height. (Although I think they would still have been too low for that.)

Both of those are still a sort of pilot error.

The only other thing would be if the plane just wasn't responding correctly. IE, if the throttles were set at 15% and the engines were putting out 30%, that's going to make it hard to get the slide slope right, since that stuff is pretty much mapped out ahead of time. The trip computer knows that the weight of the plane plus the windspeed = X% throttle for the proper descent rate. The pilot uses that and then fine tunes from there.

Could also be something like the flaps not being where they are supposed to be. If the flaps aren't where you think they are, getting the plane to react the way you want becomes more difficult.

If I heard correctly, the plane was originally coming in a little too high and fast, so they corrected. And ended up over correcting, apparently. So the failure, if there was one, could be that the plane was going faster/higher than they expected it to go and their efforts at correcting for it just didn't work out too well.
posted by gjc at 3:19 PM on July 8, 2013



I think you're confusing the intentions of engine designers and the actions of digital engine management systems to avoid compressor stalls, with some kind of control lag.


No, actually, I'm talking about time it takes a big rotating object to start rotating faster than it was - and as you go to pains to point out, in less than optimal conditions. All of which was secondary to my main point that the pilot was not going to get the power he asked for in the timeframe he needed it.

But I'm not going to discuss this anymore with you, because your supercilious condescension is how I came to be familiar with your username and you've been so goddamned wrong so often, it's just not worth the bother.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 3:27 PM on July 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


"... All of which was secondary to my main point that the pilot was not going to get the power he asked for in the timeframe he needed it. ..."

I'm betting the investigation will demonstrate that he probably did get every bit of the power he requested, according to published engine performance curves, and while that might not have been either the power he or you might have hoped for in the last moments, or which the engines, in a better situation, might have provided, it was basic airmanship that he understood those issues, and controlled appropriately for conditions.

Rotational inertia in a modern turbofan generally has very little to do with short term power availability, if airflow remains laminar and unrestricted, and adequate fuel flow is possible.
posted by paulsc at 3:45 PM on July 8, 2013


It takes several seconds for an engine in any condition to go from idle to go around thrust. We all agree on this. The pilots wanted go around thrust, but too late for it to matter. I have no idea why paulsc seems to be faulting Pogo for pointing out this really basic fact, which we all agree is correct.

power he requested,

Firewalling the thrust levers commands go-around thrust (and more), which was not available for several seconds for various reasons. What is the big issue here?
posted by kiltedtaco at 4:03 PM on July 8, 2013


"... What is the big issue here?"
posted by kiltedtaco at 7:03 PM on July 8

Liability for 2 deaths, loss of aircraft, and injury of many. If the machine was at fault, the people who made it and maintained it need to understand and improve. If airmanship was the issue, air crew need to understand and improve. If it were some as yet unknown combination of factors, many groups, including regulators may need to be involved in devising corrections.
posted by paulsc at 4:09 PM on July 8, 2013


Nobody was faulting the engine for the delay. Nobody.
posted by kiltedtaco at 4:14 PM on July 8, 2013


"... Firewalling the thrust levers commands go-around thrust (and more)..."
posted by kiltedtaco at 7:03 PM on July 8

Not really, and it's not a small distinction. Firewalling the throttles is a request for all available power. That might not be sufficient to be "go-around" power, in the flight conditions of the moment, as the engine management system saw it. That's no fault of the machine or its designers or maintainers, but it might well be a failure of airmanship, to understand the meaning of the published power curves, and their applicability to immediate conditions.

Had the plane been landing into a 30 knot headwind, things might have gone very differently, all other things being equal, not only because the engines might never been set to idle power on that approach, but also that the excess relative wind across wings and control surfaces should have helped control, improved engine response, and might have helped the air crew avoid the apparently excess nose high attitude at point of impact.
posted by paulsc at 4:26 PM on July 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


There's been about 8 errors about how airplanes work in the last 10 posts in this thread. I advise anyone reading to look elsewhere for actual information.
posted by Nelson at 4:36 PM on July 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


Here is a video of the approach to 28L at SFO.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 4:42 PM on July 8, 2013


Yeah I'm with Pogo on this, I'm not going to hang around while a bunch of tangential topics are thrown around as if they contradict my really basic point.
posted by kiltedtaco at 4:43 PM on July 8, 2013


gjc: "The altimeters work off of air pressure and need to be set to the local atmospheric pressure or they will read wrong."

777s (and many other aircraft) have radar altimeters readings from which the pilot not flying should be calling out periodically on final along with airspeed at any airline that has reasonable SOPs. It is somewhat disturbing to me that this is still not a positive requirement by the FAA and other aviation authorities.

That's not really the problem here, though. The problem here is that it was decided to continue an unstable approach. The instruments were telling them that they were descending far too quickly unless they all suddenly quit displaying anything in the middle of landing. We know this because the ADS-B data continued until the moment of the crash. This is not derived data from FAA radar, it's direct from the FMS and broadcast during flight.

That's assuming the FDR data is correct and there were no mechanical issues, of course.
posted by wierdo at 4:46 PM on July 8, 2013


Crash 'Was Only a Matter of Time': The cause of the crash landing of a Boeing 777 in San Francisco is still unclear. But pilots say they had been worried about conditions at the West Coast airport for a while. An important flight control system had been out of service for weeks.
posted by homunculus at 4:50 PM on July 8, 2013


Spiegel is way off on that one. ILS is not an "important flight control system", it is a system that increases safety for when the pilots can't see the runway reliably. It is how planes land in the nighttime and in cloudy/foggy weather. Even in those situations, the pilot still has to go around if they can't see the runway at some point. ILS helps a lot, but every pilot in the world learns how to land visually first.
posted by gjc at 5:00 PM on July 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Here is a video of the NTSB briefing from earlier today.

Some highlights :

- The impact occurred about (~1600 ft) 82 seconds after autopilot was disabled.

- 1400 feet, airspeed 170 kts, 73 seconds

- 1000 feet, airspeed 149 kts, 54 seconds

- 500 feet, airspeed 134 kts, 34 seconds

- 200 feet, airspeed 118 knots, 16 seconds

- 125 feet, throttles moved forward, 112 kts, 8 seconds

- Three seconds before impact, the craft's speed was 103 knots — the lowest measured, engines were making about 50% power, increasing.

- When it struck, airspeed was 106 knots.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 5:25 PM on July 8, 2013


paulsc: Had the plane been landing into a 30 knot headwind, things might have gone very differently, all other things being equal, not only because the engines might never been set to idle power on that approach, but also that the excess relative wind across wings and control surfaces should have helped control, improved engine response, and might have helped the air crew avoid the apparently excess nose high attitude at point of impact.

What is this excess relative wind you speak of? The airplane doesn't care how fast the wind is blowing. The only thing that matters is airspeed. Wind does not increase the speed of the air over the wings while in flight.
posted by JackFlash at 6:53 PM on July 8, 2013


What? If a plane is flying at 130 knots and there is a 130 knot wind at its back, there is zero windspeed over the wings. Of course the windspeed makes a difference!
posted by gjc at 7:39 PM on July 8, 2013


Yeah, no. Planes fly by airspeed. When NTSB says the plane is going 103kts they're quoting the airspeed indicator off the black box, not some groundspeed trace some random guy found on a website somewhere who used the acronym ADS-B to make it sound Important.

I'll repeat, there's a lot of wrong information both in this thread and in the press. It feeds people's desire for entertainment in the disaster du jour, but it doesn't really illuminate.
posted by Nelson at 8:04 PM on July 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


What? If a plane is flying at 130 knots and there is a 130 knot wind at its back, there is zero windspeed over the wings. Of course the windspeed makes a difference!

Sheesh, are we back to the conveyor belt again? Airspeed is the speed of the airplane through the air. If the airspeed is 130 knots, the speed of the air over the wings is exactly 130 knots. It makes no difference if the wind is blowing forward or backwards against the direction of travel, the airspeed is still 130 knots. Wind speed only affects the speed of the plane over the ground, but that isn't what keeps an airplane flying. The only thing that counts for lift is airspeed and wind speed is irrelevant. A plane can fly all day with an airspeed of 130 knots into a headwind of 130 knots. It just won't cover much ground.
posted by JackFlash at 8:07 PM on July 8, 2013


Right, but you said the plane doesn't care what direction the wind is blowing. That is incorrect. If all things are equal, adding a tailwind will cause the plane to drop. Adding a headwind will cause the plane to rise. If that's not true, then kites wouldn't work.

The indicated airspeed is the sum (or difference) of the windspeed and the groundspeed. So the airspeed gauge doesn't care what is causing the wind to go over the wings, but the pilots certainly need to know what the groundspeed is as well as the airspeed. If you have a headwind, it takes longer to get where you are going. If you don't know what the windspeed it, you might just misjudge how long it will take to get to the runway.
posted by gjc at 8:44 PM on July 8, 2013


Slate's Asiana Airlines Flight 214: A Pilot’s Perspective is a good sober roundup of how to approach the speculation so far.
posted by Nelson at 7:14 AM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


A stunning picture of a flight attendant carrying a passenger away from the plane.

I believe that is the woman who it was later found had a broken tailbone. Regardless, it's an amazing effort on her part.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:00 AM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I presume the pilots have been interviewed by now. Have the results of those interviews been made public and I missed them, or are they still being analyzed? (I have no problem with things not being released immediately, I hasten to add -- I just want to read the results of those interviews when they're available.)
posted by KathrynT at 9:30 AM on July 9, 2013


I read somewhere - probably on sfgate.com - that first responders were tossing pocket knives to flight attendants so they could cut trapped people out of their seatbelts. Is the on-board knife ban (that I thought was being lifted?) such that there can't even be knives available to flight attendants for such purposed? Because jeez.
posted by rtha at 9:36 AM on July 9, 2013


According to the news this morning, 2 of the 4 were interviewed yesterday, and the other 2 will be interviewed today. And no, the interviews haven't been released. They're part of the NTSB data collection process.
posted by gingerbeer at 9:37 AM on July 9, 2013


Wired: After Asiana 214, Examining the Intricacies and Perils of Landing a Modern Airliner. Does a good job explaining what an approach to landing is like. Reading it I realize there's no good analogy for the pilot skill of using power and pitch adjustments to get the plane on the right glideslope at the right speed. That's the primary art of landing an aircraft and professional pilots are very good at it, but it's still tricky.

The SF Chronicle article about the NTSB briefing contains a speculation I haven't seen anywhere else yet. "The plane shed so much speed so fast ... that it raised the possibility that the pilot at the controls ... thought he had an automatic throttle system engaged to set the plane at his targeted speed."

rtha, here's a Guardian article on tools used during the evacuation. "pilots and attendants used knives to slice off seatbelts that tangled passengers. At least one knife came from in-flight cutlery; others were lobbed in by police officers on the runway."
posted by Nelson at 10:34 AM on July 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


SF General is posting updates on the numbers of patients they still have.
posted by gingerbeer at 10:52 AM on July 9, 2013



This seems to be a pretty decent animation of the crash.

I'm sure some of the details are wrong, but overall it largely comports with what is known thus far.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 12:35 PM on July 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Nelson: "not some groundspeed trace some random guy found on a website somewhere who used the acronym ADS-B to make it sound Important."

That you don't know what something is doesn't mean it's useless. It just means you don't know about it. Given a known windspeed, one can calculate air speed based on ground speed and track direction. Unless you have some reason to believe that a system certified to tell ATC where an aircraft is and where it's going doesn't actually do that?
posted by wierdo at 1:12 PM on July 9, 2013


The Tuesday NTSB briefing is up.

- The main gear did hit the seawall. I know there was some discussion about whether that had been the case.

- 3 of the four flight crew have been interviewed, the 4th is taking place at this time.

- info from the interviews is preliminary and hasn't been verified against outside sources yet.

- 3 pilots in the cockpit, one was apparently in the jump seat in rear of the cockpit.

- The pilot who was flying had 9700 hours in flight. About 5000 hours as Pilot in Command. He has flown 10 legs and about 35 hours in the 777 - about halfway through his certification requirement for that airplane. He has been flying A320s from 2005-2013.

- This was the first time that instructing pilot and the flying pilot had flown together.

- The instructing pilot says that they were too high at 4000 feet. At 500 feet, he realized they were too low (3red, 1 white), and told the flying pilot to pull up. He thought the autothrottle was set, working, and maintaining speed.

- Between 500 and 200 feet, they had a lateral deviation that they tried to correct and he noticed that they were too low.

- at 200 feet, he says there was 4 red on the PAPI and the speed was far too slow. When he went to push the throttles forward, he found that the other pilot already had.

- he suffered a cracked rib. The other two pilots were apparently unharmed.

- Several of the chutes deployed into the cabin. They don't have all the details yet on why and how.

- The pilots have not been drug and alcohol tested - US law does not specifically require it, and defers to the home country.

- Two of the Flight Attendants were ejected during the crash. They survived, and were found alongside the runway.(!)
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 6:25 PM on July 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


BBC summary of the NTSB briefing.
He told the pilot to pull back on the stick, and seconds later he realised that the automated throttle controls, which had been engaged, were not maintaining the correct speed of 137 knots. About eight seconds before impact, the pilot in control pushed the throttles forward to speed up.
posted by Nelson at 6:35 PM on July 9, 2013


Since I've discovered the NTSB youtube channel and have been watching Chairman Deborah Hersman in a variety of contexts.

She is a really remarkable person. The briefings she gives are concise, to the point, very clear, and she's done just a bang up job of getting info out as soon as she can and being clear about the state of the investigation.

I've become more impressed at her management of the NTSB the more I learn about it.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:27 AM on July 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, she was talking to a reporter from our local Fox affiliate on the extremely early morning news yesterday - it was barely light out - and from the bit I caught, she was clear, coherent and forthright. Impressive.
posted by rtha at 8:41 AM on July 10, 2013


The fact that she looks kind of like Geena Davis doesn't hurt.
posted by gingerbeer at 11:05 AM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


So, I did a bunch of reading over lunch, and it seems to me that the general consensus is that the pilots relied on the autothrottle to maintain airspeed, and it did not. They did not notice this until it was too late.

So, the issues at hand:

1. Why was there such a lack of situational awareness with three experienced pilots in the cockpit ?

2. Why were the pilots confused about the actual status of the autothrottle ? (lack of documentation/training, error in setting, malfunction, etc.)

Of course, nothing is official until the NTSB says so, but so far, that seems to be direction things are going.

This is sort of well trod ground, it seems.

And here, have a bonus picture from the NTSB.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 11:25 AM on July 10, 2013


The first questions I want answers to are "was the autothrottle actually set" and "was the autothrottle equipment working correctly"?

One thing that's common in NTSB reports is they almost always conclude pilot error. If an engine fails at takeoff and the plane crashes and everyone dies in the ensuing fire, the final cause isn't "engine failure", it's "pilot's failure to land the aircraft without power". The premise of FAA regulations is that it is truly Pilot in Command. Pilots have a lot of authority to do whatever they think is necessary for safety of flight (including breaking the rules). OTOH they also have final responsibility for the flight. So even if the autothrottle was set and malfunctioning, there's still going to be a lot of hard questions about the pilots not noticing and correcting the slow airspeed.

See also NTSB urges caution on dispensing blame in Asiana crash and Pilots' union criticizes NTSB for releasing preliminary info on crash.
posted by Nelson at 11:38 AM on July 10, 2013


Yeah, the NTSB is a seriously impressive example of successful government in action. Non-partisan, totally committed to their mission, effective, and communicative. When you think of good government, the NTSB should be the first thing that comes to your mind. Helps that they have no regulatory power, I guess, but I believe that they have been the single greatest force for aviation safety in the history of the industry.

And maybe this is the cynic in me speaking out, but I have been awfully surprised that I have never heard a single bad word spoken against Chairman Hersman, especially remarks about her looks or age. Seriously an awesome person to be heading up the Board.
posted by backseatpilot at 12:27 PM on July 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


And maybe this is the cynic in me speaking out, but I have been awfully surprised that I have never heard a single bad word spoken against Chairman Hersman, especially remarks about her looks or age. Seriously an awesome person to be heading up the Board.

>The fact that she looks kind of like Geena Davis doesn't hurt.

Oh well.
posted by modernnomad at 2:47 PM on July 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


That was not intended as a slight on her at all. Sorry if it read that way.
posted by gingerbeer at 3:11 PM on July 10, 2013


I don't think it was taken as a "Geena Davis is unattractive" insult, but rather "oh look here's a professional woman doing her job effectively... say, why don't we talk about her appearance which is obviously relevant to her job?"
posted by modernnomad at 3:40 PM on July 10, 2013


[Let's leave aside the derail about the global context of how we talk about the NTSB commissioner?]
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:45 PM on July 10, 2013


NTSB briefing Wednesday.

- the two pilots were well rested before takeoff. They flew the first 2ish hours. The relief crew flew for 5 hours, then they changed again.

- in the last two minutes of the flight, they see the pilot use multiple autopilot and autothrottle modes. It is unclear why this happened - from the pilot, or inadvertently, or whatever.

- 8 doors. 12 flight attendants. 6 are hospitalized still and not interviewed. The cabin manager/lead flight attendant and one other were at the front of the plane. 2 F/A in the 2nd door (2L). 1 F/A at the third door (3L). 1 F/A at 3R was hospitalized.

- 4 F/A seated at the rear. 3 of those, and their seats were ejected from the aircraft. 1 of them was found inside in their seat. They are all in the hospital and not interviewed. No passenger seats were ejected.

Doors 1&2R had slides that opened inside, trapping the F/As. They needed to be rescued from them - they couldn't get out alone. It is unknown why they opened inside the cabin, they should not have.

- The F/A near the front asked the crew if they should evacuate. The flight crew said not at this time. They were communicating with the tower. The pilot made an announcement to not evacuate. At this time, the F/A at 2L looked out and could see a fire (on the engine). The evacuation began after that.

- approximate times. evacuation ordered ~1.5 minutes after the airplane stopped, 2L then 1L opened and the slides deployed. At 2 minutes, the first emergency vehicle arrived. At about 3 minutes, the first fire truck arrived.

- The fire was not in the cabin initially while the evacuation was going, but did come up late in the evacuation - the fire was fought inside while evacuations were completed.

- The Flying Pilot has stated to korean authorities that there was a flash that blinded him momentarily at about 500 ft AGL. He did mention this to the NTSB, and they are investigating.

- They don't know exactly what autothrottle modes were active when just yet; they are working on it.

- The crew in the cockpit did talk to each other. The first officer (relief pilot) called out "sink rate" when he noticed that they were coming down too fast.

- The pilots were all very cooperative. The interviews were 4 hours long each.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 4:57 PM on July 10, 2013 [10 favorites]


Pogo_Fuzzybutt, thank you so much for your clear and concise summaries of the NTSB briefings. I have learned more from you than from any single other source.
posted by KathrynT at 5:00 PM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]



Thanks!

But two things; I'm usually doing this while eating dinner, so the transcription could contain some errors/typos etc. Also, I'm just trying to stick to what I think is important. These briefings are usually really informative, and I highly recommend you watch them - I left quite a bit out.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 5:21 PM on July 10, 2013


Pogo_Fuzzybutt: "The Flying Pilot has stated to korean authorities that there was a flash that blinded him momentarily at about 500 ft AGL. He did mention this to the NTSB, and they are investigating."

The straw that broke the camel's back?
posted by wierdo at 5:23 PM on July 10, 2013


He was already pretty well screwed by that point anyway - 134kts and a rate of descent at 1500 fpm.... Then again, he was light and already flaps down with 30 seconds before impact. So maybe.

Anyway, it seemed to me that Ms. Hersman doesn't seem to buy the "flash of light" story. She didn't say so much as that, of course, but... there was something about they way she answered that question that made me think that she thinks it was bullshit.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 5:41 PM on July 10, 2013


NTSB chair attracts notice with poise, ambition: profile of Deborah Hersman in the SF Chronicle today. She also presided over the investigation in the 2010 San Bruno natural gas line explosion.
posted by Nelson at 12:22 PM on July 11, 2013


NTSB Briefing Thursday. cspan has failed me. youtube ntsbgov doesn't have it yet.

This is the final briefing.

- The pilot states that he saw a bright point of light, and that it may have been a reflection of the sun. It was not noted by the other pilots, and it was not mentioned in the CVR. The Pilot states that it didn't affect his vision and he could see the cockpit instruments and the speed of airplane at that time.

- Under FAA part 129 regulations, the FAA does not conduct in country inspections. They also do not do en route (in flight) inspections. They do conduct ramp inspections. These are unannounced inspections.

- The FAA has contacted Asiana 134 times in the past 18 months for all reasons.

- The FAA reports that Asiana has been a quiet operator with no significant issues in recent years.

- These times are approximate:

- During the approach, one of the three crew in the cockpit made statements about being above the glidepath, then on it, then about being under.

- About 35 seconds before impact, there was an automated 500 ft warning, and around this time, a crewmember reports that the landing checklist is complete.

- About 18 seconds before impact, there was an automated 200ft warning.

- About 9 seconds before impact, there was an automated 100ft warning. Immediately after this someone in the cockpit says something about speed.

- About 3 seconds before impact, someone made a call to go around.

- About 1.5 seconds before impact, someone makes another call to go around - this was a different person.

- 220 of the 1400 parameters (readings, basically) of the FDR have been validated.

From that data :

- The engines and flight controls appear to behave as expected to control inputs.

- There is no anomalous behavior of the autopilot, flight manager, or auto throttle - in the analysis as completed so far.

- They still have to validate the rest of the data in the FDR.

- They still have to correlate the FDR and CVR, and combine that with ATC and post accident interviews.

- The rocks in this photo were displaced from the seawall and thrown hundreds of feet down the runway.

- The main gear hit first, and then the tail.

- All of the debris has been removed, except for the airframe and the slides. They have to cut the plane up to remove it. It should take a couple days. They'll be taking parts they are interested in for further study, and the rest will be dealt with by top men.

- They are still documenting the cabin. Photo.

- All of the doors were armed. 7 were still attached; one (4L) had come off in the crash.

- One of the 6 F/A in the hospital has been released.

- A firefighter went in door 2L and reported that there was minimal damage in that section of the plane. As he went further back, it was more and more damaged. There was a stark difference in damage between the front and the rear.

- The escape path lighting was on during the evacuation and the P/A was apparently working.

- From the cockpit to the rear of the wings, the floor was structurally sound. After that, the support are compromised on the right side. Further back between doors 3-4 the floor is much worse. There is no floor behind door 4.

- The fire almost certainly started where the number 2 engine lay against the fuselage.

- The landing gear separated cleanly and this was by design. The fuel tanks were not breached. The fire was not a result of spilled fuel.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:23 PM on July 11, 2013 [3 favorites]



- From 500 feet to 100 feet, there is no mention in the CVR related to speed.

- There was a callout regarding sink rate on the CVR. It was prior to 500 feet and they have not determined who said it.

- All photos can be found here.

- A final report should be in 12 months or less. If there are any immediate recommendations that arise, those may be made sooner. The NTSB has no regulatory capability, however.

- There was a report in Korean media that the ATC had a shift change 30 seconds before impact. However, the last communication with ATC happened 90 seconds before impact. When the plane hit the wall, ATC called for emergency response before the crew had stopped crashing.

- It is unknown if the landing checklist had a "Check speed" or "Check throttle" component.

- There is no indication that any personal electronics interfered with the performance of the aircraft.

- The autothrottle/autopilot appear to have been working correctly. It is unknown if the throttle was set incorrectly, however - they are still investigating that.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:50 PM on July 11, 2013


In the particular golf tournament attended, I saw two Canadian players hitting a poor shot. One golfer hit it short in the 10th hole, dropping the ball into the water. The other, in the narrow 16th hole, badly sliced the drive and ended up in the woods. Quickly, I mustered every scrap of knowledge I had about Canadian culture in my head, and I tried to connect the dots: is there something about Canadian culture that leads to poor golf shots by two different golfers at two different holes?

Just kidding--of course I am kidding. Obviously, I did not think about connecting Canadian culture and poor golf shots, nor do I ever try to connect any national culture with poor golf shots. Nobody in the right mind would do such a thing. We all know that.

But if we all know that, why do so many people do the same thing when it comes to airplane crashes?

posted by KokuRyu at 10:09 PM on July 11, 2013 [2 favorites]



But if we all know that, why do so many people do the same thing when it comes to airplane crashes?

The US military has long had a cultural problem, too, where adherence to hierarchy and subordination were greater concerns than safety.

For example, this 1994 B52 crash. more.

There are other examples.

The point is that culture plays a role in aircraft disasters, sometimes in not so subtle ways. The NTSB and FAA have long held that the pilot is expected to fly the plane, and if someone subordinate to the pilot notices something out of place, they must speak up, and the pilot must listen.

The two big questions from the crash of flight 214 are :

Why did three experience pilots not notice the decaying airspeed, and if they did notice, why was there so little said about it ?

To the extent Korean and/or Korean military culture played into this, I think it's important to consider. Although, yeah, I agree, it is possible to take that too far - the goal should be fewer dumb mistakes that result in airplane crashes.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:26 AM on July 12, 2013


Yeah, cultural issues are absolutely relevant in the cockpit. A commercial jet requires more than one person to operate; the way those people interact is important. And pilot culture has intentionally changed in the last 20 years, with junior pilots explicitly encouraged to speak up and challenge the captain if something is going wrong.

But I'm uncomfortable bridging from the generalization about the importance of crew resource management to the specifics of "Koreans are like this", that's just so easy to do wrong. I'm more interested in the specific cultural history that turned Asiana from an accident-plagued airline nearly banned form international airspace into a serious global carrier. They did something right.
posted by Nelson at 8:11 AM on July 12, 2013


It looks like we have a confirmation that at least one victim was hit by a fire truck.
“We know for sure she was at least run over one time, but at the time she was under foam, so nobody could have seen her,” Suhr said. “And the question is whether or not she was still alive at the time. So the coroner in San Mateo County will be determining that.”
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 11:40 AM on July 12, 2013


Yeah, cultural issues are absolutely relevant in the cockpit.

Hmmm, I disagree. There's talk that there was mechanical failure, for example.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:45 PM on July 12, 2013


Sounds like the runway will be operational by tomorrow.
posted by gingerbeer at 2:42 PM on July 12, 2013


NTSB has confirmed the pilot's names.
posted by empath at 3:09 PM on July 12, 2013


For those who don't want to watch the youtube clip empath linked to, it is a live TV clip of KTVU showing the following four names and reading them:

Captain Sum Ting Wong
Wi Tu Lo
Ho Lee Fuk
Bang Ding Ow

They later issued a correction/apology.
posted by insectosaurus at 4:01 PM on July 12, 2013


OMG. That's so many levels of wrong, I don't even know where to begin.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 4:06 PM on July 12, 2013


WTF. How is that even possible in the year 2013? KTVU should be given the corporate death penalty. Put it out of its incompetent, race-baiting misery.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:10 PM on July 12, 2013


Their apology was pretty much "Sorry we were inaccurate about the names." Uh, thanks.
posted by rtha at 4:17 PM on July 12, 2013


A third victim has died.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 5:39 PM on July 12, 2013


Apparently, a summer intern at the NTSB is responsible for confirming the fake offensive names. If that means the intern came up with the names or not is unclear.
posted by zsazsa at 7:02 PM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Whoever is responsible for the KTVU fuck up should be named and shamed so future employers find out what a racist dirtbag they are. Everyone who didn't catch the error should have their pay docked and should have to attend a "don't be a fucking idiot" seminar. What the fuck is wrong with people?
posted by desjardins at 7:55 PM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I read the comments on the sfgate link Pogo_Fuzzybutt posted because I thought SF had a large Asian population and I would be interested to know how they reacted. DON'T READ THE COMMENTS.
posted by desjardins at 7:59 PM on July 12, 2013


Apparently, a summer intern at the NTSB is responsible for confirming the fake offensive names. If that means the intern came up with the names or not is unclear.

What is clear is that the intern now has the summer off.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:07 PM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


The names apparently originated at the TV station, and the NTSB intern "helpfully" "confirmed" them even though he didn't know them. How ANYONE can miss the racist awfulness in that I have no idea.
posted by KathrynT at 10:21 PM on July 12, 2013


We just watched the KTVU newscast. They apologized and explained and it seemed a pretty heartfelt apology. What was missing, to my ears, was any acknowledgement of how freaking racist it was. They said "offensive" but they don't seem to be able to say "racist."

And yes, San Francisco has several large Asian communities. Asians are over a third of the population. That in no way means that anyone should read the cesspool of internet comments on SF Gate. Two completely unrelated things.
posted by gingerbeer at 10:28 PM on July 12, 2013


Everyone who didn't catch the error should have their pay docked and should have to attend a "don't be a fucking idiot" seminar.

OK, but don't bother with the news readers. It is sadly not part of their job description to be aware of the meaning of the words they read. The seminar would also be asking them to be different kinds of people entirely.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:31 AM on July 13, 2013


The culturalism blog post (Ask A Korean: Culturalism, Gladwell, and Airplane Crashes) that KokuRyu linked to above is excellent. Another quote:
"Like racism, culturalism distracts away from asking more meaningful questions, and obscures pertinent facts. A common meme in the current analysis of Asiana crash is that insufficient communication among the pilots can contribute to an accident, and Korean culture may hamper communication among the pilots. But is this correct? Read virtually any disaster report--be it 9/11 commission report or the BP oil disaster report--and you would find that lack of sufficient communication, particularly between the lower-ranked and higher-ranked staff, is a universal cause for a major disaster. Then does it make sense to focus on the culture of one particular country or a region, to address the issue of communication? Will doing so actually fix anything?"
posted by iamkimiam at 5:26 AM on July 13, 2013 [3 favorites]



Pilots union faults NTSB for releasing too much info on Asiana crash


Korea Times: Korea, US clash over Asiana crash
Korea Times: `NTSB chief skewed Asiana crash probe'
Experts are especially taking issue with the second-term NTSB chairwoman for releasing selected parts of recorded cockpit conversations between the pilots and the control tower, and flight records leading up to the crash, giving the media the impression that pilot error caused the accident.

Hersman, whose term expires this year, is also dictating the terms of the U.S.-Korean joint investigation, ordering Asiana President Yoon Young-doo to call off a press conference upon his arrival in San Francisco.
posted by Golden Eternity at 12:44 PM on July 13, 2013


giving the media the impression that pilot error caused the accident

Hehe.
The pilots said they set the auto throttle at 137 knots, the typical landing speed for a Boeing 777. Whether or not those controls were working may determine the cause of the accident.
If the airplane is gonna fly itself into the ground, what do you expect the pilots to do - interfere or something ?
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 2:18 PM on July 13, 2013


That in no way means that anyone should read the cesspool of internet comments on SF Gate.

I clicked through a few pages of comments and didn't see anything particularly objectionable. A few people said they got a chuckle out of the names, surely that's not what you mean by "cesspool." Maybe they've removed a bunch of stuff.
posted by Unified Theory at 7:20 PM on July 14, 2013


Maybe they've removed a bunch of stuff.

They must have. The amount of racism usually found in the sfgate comments is fairly astonishing.
posted by hoyland at 8:12 PM on July 14, 2013


Asiana is apparently going to sue KTVU.

I don't think that is going to have the outcome they expect.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:35 AM on July 15, 2013


A photo of the removal of the wreckage.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:31 AM on July 16, 2013


Another animation of the crash.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 2:03 PM on July 16, 2013


Oh dear that's another animation from the jackasses at Eyewitness Productions. It may be "ver 3" but it still gets the most basic thing wrong, showing the actual approach being at the same airspeed as the desired ghost approach. Also the pitch angle before touchdown is laughably high, and I'm not quite sure what the drag racer exhaust is supposed to signify. For some reason these guys' fictions keep getting passed around and it's really frustrating.

Meanwhile, Korean Pilots Avoided Manual Flying, Former Trainers Say. My intuition is this concern is overblown, but I could certainly see getting rusty on setting up the visual glidepath if you're used to relying on the ILS. Never have found an answer for my question upthread; do commercial jets use GPS LPV approaches often? There's not much need if you've got a working ILS, but when you don't it's a nice alternative.
posted by Nelson at 2:41 PM on July 16, 2013


Also the pitch angle before touchdown is laughably high, and I'm not quite sure what the drag racer exhaust is supposed to signify

There was some discussion of that elsewhere. Apparently, in the video of the crash, there is a spray of water before impact. The consensus seems to be that it must have been caused by the engine thrust and AOA, since the NTSB stated that the main gear hit first.

Actual values for the pitch angle are going to be speculative until there is actual FDR data; there is just no way around that - though I agree I think it's overdone.

As an approximation of events, I thought it wasn't bad. Of course, like all things on the internet, best to wait for official sources before being sure of anything. I imagine the NTSB will have their own animation with actual data available sooner or later. They have several others already on their youtube channel and I find them fascinating.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:55 AM on July 17, 2013


My complaint is "Eyewitness Productions" is anything but. They completley make up the aircraft pitch, totally misrepresent the airspeed, then create a fancy video that fools people who view it into thinking they learned something. It's fake, deceptive, harmful to the truth.
posted by Nelson at 10:45 AM on July 17, 2013


Confirmation that one of the victims was killed by "one or two" rescue vehicles.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 6:19 AM on July 21, 2013


Local Newscast Uses DMCA to Erase Air Crash Reporting Blunder
posted by homunculus at 8:56 PM on July 22, 2013


KTVU producers fired over Asiana pilots' fake names
posted by rtha at 8:26 AM on July 25, 2013


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