Pilots relied on automatic equipment in plane crash
SAN FRANCISCO - Agence France-Presse
Passengers are seen on the tarmac just moments after the plane crashed. AP photoThe pilots of Asiana Flight 214 that crashed at San Francisco airport have told investigators they were relying on automated cockpit equipment to control their speed, turning a focus of the accident investigation toward whether a mistake was made setting the autothrottle or if it malfunctioned.
One of the most puzzling aspects of the crash has been why the wide-body jet came in far too low and slow, clipping its landing gear and then its tail on a rocky seawall just short of the runway.
National Transportation Safety Board chairman Deborah Hersman said July 9 the training captain who was instructing the pilot flying the Boeing 777 has told investigators he thought the autothrottle was programmed for a speed of 137 knots, the target speed the pilots had selected for how fast they wanted the plane to be flying when it crossed the runway threshold.
Instead, investigators said the plane reached speeds as low as 103 knots and was in danger of stalling because it was losing lift before it hit the seawall. The pilot told investigators he realized the autothrottle, similar to a cruise control, was not engaged just seconds before they hit. Asked if the autothrottle was malfunctioning, Hersman said that is something investigators are looking into.