Pilots in Asiana crash relied on automatic equipment
Two flight attendants were ejected from plane after tail hit seawall in front of runway in San Francisco
“They had set speed at 137 knots (158 mph), and he assumed that the auto-throttles were maintaining speed,” Ms Hersman said of the instructor pilot.
She noted that the pilots were responsible for maintaining airspeed.
“We have a flying pilot and two other pilots in the cockpit and they have a monitoring function,” she said. “One of the critical things that needs to be monitored on an approach to landing is speed. So we need to understand what was going on in the cockpit and also what was going on with the aircraft.”
The world’s largest pilots union rebuked the NTSB for its handling of the crash investigation, saying the agency had released too much information too quickly, which could lead to wrong conclusions and compromise safety.
Releasing data from the flight’s black boxes without full investigative information for context “has fueled rampant speculation” about the cause of the crash, the Air Line Pilots Association International said in a statement.
Ms Hersman rejected the criticism. “We work for the traveling public,” she said. “We feel it is important to show our work.”
Aviation consultant Hans Weber, the president of TECOP International, Inc, said the accident may revive a long-running debate over whether pilots’ increasing reliance on automated flight systems has taken a toll on their “hand-flying” skills.
Maintaining proper airspeed and altitude is “the most basic responsibility of the pilot, like breathing in and out,” Mr Weber said. But it could be the case, he added, that “pilots are paying attention to the computer rather than paying attention to the fundamentals.”
Ms Hersman did not comment on whether anyone in addition to the two flight attendants was ejected from the plane, though the two teenage Chinese students who died were found outside the aircraft. One of them may have been run over by an emergency vehicle, San Francisco fire department officials have said, but the local coroner has not yet released autopsy results showing the cause of death.
Asiana Airlines chief executive Yoon Young-doo arrived in San Francisco on Tuesday to meet with US investigators, Asiana staff and survivors of the crash.
Ms Hersman also confirmed witness accounts that at least one emergency escape chute had deployed inside the aircraft, trapping a flight attendant. The pilot who was sitting in the cabin worked to free her, Ms Hersman said.
“I saw a leg sticking out between the slide and the wall. It kept moving,” passenger Eugene Rah said in an interview on Monday. He said he and a man he believed was a crew member struggled to free her, adding: “He was asking me if I had anything sharp, but these days nobody can be on board with anything sharp.”
She was eventually freed and hospitalized with serious injuries, Mr Rah said.