Flight instructor examines video from fatal San Francisco plane crash

by: Tony Thomas Updated:

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ATLANTA - One Georgia-based aviation expert says video of the crash of Asiana flight 214 in San Francisco backs up what investigators say they are seeing in flight data recordings.

Kit Darby said the 777 airliner was coming in way too slow and too low to make a safe landing. He wonders why the pilot did not try and abort the landing much earlier.

"Even though the right steps were taken at the last moment, it was past the moment when the decision should have been made," he said after viewing the video.

The Associated Press is reporting that accident investigators are trying to determine whether pilot error, mechanical problems or something else was to blame for the crash.

At a news conference on Sunday, National Transportation Safety Board Chief Deborah Hersman disclosed the Boeing 777 was traveling at speeds well below the target landing speed of 137 knots per hour, or 157 mph.

"We're not talking about a few knots," she said.

Seven seconds before the crash, pilots recognized the need to increase speed, she said.

Three seconds later, the aircraft's stick shaker -- a piece of safety equipment that warns pilots of an impending stall -- went off.

The normal response to a stall warning is to boost speed and Hersman said the throttles were fired and the engines appeared to respond normally.

At 1.5 seconds before impact, there was a call from the crew to abort the landing and in pilot lingo -- go around.

A man taping from about a mile from the runways captured the crash on video.

"Oh my god, it's an accident," you can hear him say just after remarking how high the plane’s nose was as it came in for a landing at San Francisco's International Airport.

Asiana flight 214 hits the seawall, slides along the ground before doing a partial cartwheel and landing back on its belly.

Darby has spent more than 24,000 hours flying aircrafts and teaches many commercial airline pilots in an Atlanta flights simulator.

"They were low, they were slow, they got a stick shaker, which is a stall warning, which means they were 30 percent low, I mean really low on the speed," he said.

Darby says it's a problem many pilots, himself included, have faced before, but not so close to the ground where there is no time to recover.

"It's tough to admit if a mistake has been made and to go around. There's always that battle between the rules and make it work out,” Darby said.
“We were just a fraction away from this being much worse than it is."

On the video, he noticed how close the 777 was to crashing into the water, where rescue attempts would have been much harder. He also said a 747 taxiing nearby could have easily been hit in the crash, but lucky wasn't affected at all.

He said following the NTSB investigation, facts will come out that will aide pilots for years to come.

"There's a method in place to make sure this doesn’t' happen. That you go around sooner to make sure you live for another day,” Darby said.



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