* No signs of trouble until 7 seconds before crash
* Flight recorders show plane was flying too slowly
* Data indicates that last-moment maneuvers failed
* Two Chinese teenagers killed, 180 hurt in fiery crash
By Sarah McBride and Gerry Shih
SAN FRANCISCO, July 7 (Reuters) - The Asiana Airlines Boeing
777 that crashed at San Francisco's airport on Saturday was
traveling "significantly below" its intended speed and its crew
tried to abort the landing just seconds before it hit the
seawall in front of the runway, the U.S. National Transportation
Safety Board said on Sunday.
Information collected from the plane's cockpit voice
recorder and flight data recorder indicated that there were no
signs of trouble until seven seconds before impact, when the
crew tried to accelerate, NTSB Chairwoman Deborah Hersman said
at a news conference at the airport.
A stall warning sounded four seconds before impact, and the
crew tried to abort the landing and initiate what's known as a
"go around" maneuver just 1.5 seconds before crashing, Hersman
"Air speed was significantly below the target airspeed," she
The crash killed two teenage Chinese students and injured
more than 180 people, at least two dozen of them seriously,
local officials said.
Hersman said it was too early to speculate on the cause of
the crash. The data recorders corroborated witness accounts and
an amateur video, obtained by CNN, that indicated the plane came
in too low, lifted its nose in an attempt to gain altitude, and
then bounced along the tarmac after the rear of the aircraft hit
a seawall at the approach to the runway.
Asked whether the information reviewed by the NTSB showed
pilot error in the crash, Hersman did not answer directly.
"What I will tell you is that the NTSB conducts very
thorough investigations. We will not reach a determination of
probable cause in the first few days that we're on an accident
scene," she told reporters.
Asiana said mechanical failure did not appear to
be a factor in the crash. Hersman confirmed that a part of the
airport's instrument-landing system was offline on Saturday but
cautioned against drawing conclusions from that, noting that the
so-called glide slope system was not essential to safe
operations in good weather. She said it was a clear day with
Six people remained in critical condition at San Francisco
General Hospital on Sunday, including one girl, a hospital
spokeswoman said, and 13 others were in less serious condition.
Stanford Hospital said late on Saturday that three people were
in critical condition and 10 in serious condition there.
At least five people were still being treated at other area
hospitals on Sunday morning.
Some of the injured at San Francisco General suffered spinal
fractures, including paralysis, and others sustained head trauma
and abdominal injuries, according to Margaret Knudson, chief of
surgery at the hospital.
At least two patients also suffered "severe road rash
suggesting they were dragged," Knudson said. The injured
patients who were able to talk said they were all sitting in the
back of the plane, Knudson said.
The plane was coming in from Seoul when witnesses said its
tail appeared to hit the approach area of a runway that juts
into San Francisco Bay.
The impact knocked off the plane's tail and the aircraft
appeared to bounce violently, scattering a trail of debris and
spinning before coming to rest on the tarmac.
Benjamin Levy, a 39-year-old venture capitalist from San
Francisco who sat in a window seat near one of the wings, said
the flight crew gave "no indication whatsoever" that there was
any problem with the landing moments before the aircraft struck
Following the initial collision, "we're going back up and
I'm thinking maybe we're taking off again. We didn't and we went
back pretty hard and bounced," he told reporters after being
released from San Francisco General.
"It's like a Six Flags show," he said, referring to a theme
park. "We were skipping on the runway."
SERIOUS INTERIOR DAMAGE
Pictures taken by survivors showed passengers hurrying out
of the wrecked plane, some on evacuation slides. Thick smoke
billowed from the fuselage and TV footage later showed the
aircraft gutted and blackened by fire. Much of its roof was
Interior damage to the plane also was extreme, Hersman said
"You can see the devastation from the outside of the
aircraft, the burn-through, the damage to the external
fuselage," she said. "But what you can't see is the damage
internally. That is really striking."
The dead were identified as Ye Meng Yuan and Wang Lin Jia,
both 16-year-old girls and described as Chinese nationals who
are students, Asiana Airlines said. They had been seated at the
rear of the aircraft, according to government officials in Seoul
and Asiana, and were found outside the airplane.
The crash was the first fatal accident involving the Boeing
777, a popular long-range jet that has been in service since
1995. It was the first fatal commercial airline accident in the
United States since a regional plane operated by Colgan Air
crashed in New York in 2009.
"For now, we acknowledge that there were no problems caused
by the 777-200 plane or (its) engines," Yoon Young-doo, the
president and CEO of the airline, told reporters on Sunday at
the company headquarters on the outskirts of Seoul.
Asiana on Sunday said the flight, which originated in
Shanghai, had carried 291 passengers and 16 crew members. The
passengers included 141 Chinese, 77 South Koreans, 64 U.S.
citizens, three Indians, three Canadians, one French, one
Vietnamese and one Japanese citizen.
Vedpal Singh, a native of India, was on board the flight
along with his wife and son when the aircraft struck the landing
"Your instincts take over. You don't know what's going on,"
said Singh, who had his arm in a sling as he walked through the
airport's international terminal and told reporters he had
suffered a fractured collar bone.
Asiana, South Korea's junior carrier, has had two other
fatal crashes in its 25-year history.
A senior Asiana official said the pilot was Lee Jeong-min, a
veteran pilot who has spent his career with the airline. He was
among four pilots on the plane who rotated on two-person shifts
during the 10-hour flight, the official said.
© 2022 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.