Skip to main content

What we know and don't know about Asiana Flight 214

By Richard T. Griffiths, CNN
updated 5:29 PM EDT, Mon July 8, 2013
In this handout photo released by the National Transportation Safety Board, Asiana Airlines Flight 214 sits just off the runway at San Francisco International Airport on Sunday, July 7. The Boeing 777 coming from Seoul, South Korea, crashed on landing on Saturday, July 6. Three passengers, all girls, died as a result of the first notable U.S. air crash in four years. In this handout photo released by the National Transportation Safety Board, Asiana Airlines Flight 214 sits just off the runway at San Francisco International Airport on Sunday, July 7. The Boeing 777 coming from Seoul, South Korea, crashed on landing on Saturday, July 6. Three passengers, all girls, died as a result of the first notable U.S. air crash in four years.
HIDE CAPTION
Plane crash-lands in San Francisco
Plane crash-lands in San Francisco
Plane crash-lands in San Francisco
Plane crash-lands in San Francisco
Plane crash-lands in San Francisco
Plane crash-lands in San Francisco
Plane crash-lands in San Francisco
Plane crash-lands in San Francisco
Plane crash-lands in San Francisco
Plane crash-lands in San Francisco
Plane crash-lands in San Francisco
Plane crash-lands in San Francisco
Plane crash-lands in San Francisco
Plane crash-lands in San Francisco
Plane crash-lands in San Francisco
Plane crash-lands in San Francisco
Plane crash-lands in San Francisco
Plane crash-lands in San Francisco
Plane crash-lands in San Francisco
Plane crash-lands in San Francisco
Plane crash-lands in San Francisco
Plane crash-lands in San Francisco
Plane crash-lands in San Francisco
Plane crash-lands in San Francisco
Plane crash-lands in San Francisco
Plane crash-lands in San Francisco
Plane crash-lands in San Francisco
Plane crash-lands in San Francisco
Plane crash-lands in San Francisco
Plane crash-lands in San Francisco
Plane crash-lands in San Francisco
Plane crash-lands in San Francisco
Plane crash-lands in San Francisco
Plane crash-lands in San Francisco
Plane crash-lands in San Francisco
Plane crash-lands in San Francisco
Plane crash-lands in San Francisco
Plane crash-lands in San Francisco
Plane crash-lands in San Francisco
Plane crash-lands in San Francisco
Plane crash-lands in San Francisco
Plane crash-lands in San Francisco
Plane crash-lands in San Francisco
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
42
43
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Airline: Pilot was making first landing in control of a Boeing 777 at San Francisco airport
  • Pilot had 10,000 hours of experience but only 43 hours flying time in a 777
  • An emergency vehicle ran over one of the passengers
  • Passengers describe the engines spooling up and the nose tilting up before impact

(CNN) -- Here's what we know about Saturday's crash landing of Asiana Airlines Flight 214 and some of the key questions raised by those facts:

1. A preliminary readout from the flight data and cockpit voice recorders shows the aircraft was approaching well below the target landing speed of 137 knots (157 mph). Records from the flight data recorder show that at 500 feet of altitude and 34 seconds before impact, the aircraft had already slowed to 134 knots (154 mph).

At seven seconds before impact, the pilots attempted to spool up the engines. At four seconds, the stall warning sounded. At 1.5 seconds, the pilots tried to abort the landing and go around to attempt another landing. At impact, the flight data recorder shows the aircraft had a forward speed of a mere 106 knots (121 mph).

What we don't know: Why was the aircraft approaching so slowly? Did the pilot not realize he was short?

Girls killed in crash were headed for camp

Asiana 214's fateful last seconds
Up-close look at crash scene
Video shows plane's moment of impact
Flight 214's communications revealed

2. Asiana said the pilot at the controls was making his first landing of a Boeing 777 at San Francisco International Airport. While a pilot with more than 10,000 hours of experience, including many hours flying Boeing 747s, he had only 43 hours of flying time in a 777.

What we don't know: Did pilot inexperience with the aircraft play a role? Why did the captain not speak up or take control?

3. The NTSB investigators have found nothing to corroborate online flight tracking records showing that Asiana Flight 214 descended from cruising altitude much more steeply and rapidly than previous Asiana flights on the same route. The NTSB says it found no "abnormally steep descent data."

4. Part of the instrument landing system approach on Runway 28L was not working on the day of the crash. It had been down for some time. Flights were landing using visual flight rules. The weather was clear. The flight data shows the autopilot was disengaged at 1,600 feet and the pilot then took manual control of the plane.

What we don't know: Did the lack of ILS force the pilot to make a VFR landing in an aircraft with which he was not fully familiar?

5. The runway's precision approach path indicator lights, showing correct flight approach altitudes, were working.

What we don't know: Why didn't the pilot recognize he was too low for the approach and initiate a go-around earlier?

6. Based on the debris field and the video obtained by CNN, the aircraft appears to have struck the rock sea wall well before the start of the runway. There are some marks on the sea wall, consistent with an impact of some part of the plane.

7. The debris field runs from the water, slightly right of the paved threshold and runway center, all the way to the stopped aircraft fuselage. The NTSB says pieces of the rear of the aircraft are in the water near the seawall, visible at low tide.

8. The Boeing 777 lost its tail section, including vertical and horizontal stabilizers, near the end of the paved threshold, just before the start of the runway.

What we don't know: Is this an indication the tail of the aircraft detached after first impact?

9. The right engine is detached from the wing and wedged against the right side of the fuselage. The left engine is a considerable distance forward of the fuselage in a grassy area to the right of Runway 28L. The NTSB says both engines had high rotational damage, showing that they were powering at impact.

10. Most of the fire damage to the aircraft occurred after the Boeing 777 came to a stop on its belly.

11. Passengers described the cabin interior as heavily damaged, with overhead bins dropping and at least one life raft/escape slide inflating inside the aircraft, trapping a flight attendant, whom passengers helped free. The NTSB says it will investigate the structural safety of the seats.

12. The coroner says one of the two passengers killed appears to have been run over by an emergency vehicle, though the coroner had not yet determined the cause of death. Asiana has identified the fatalities as Ye Mengyuan and Wang Linjia of China, both of whom were 16.

13. Audio recordings of air traffic control conversations show no sign that the pilot declared an emergency before the crash landing. Emergency vehicles were dispatched afterward.

14. The aircraft was built in 2006 and was purchased new by Asiana.

15. The NTSB was planning to interview the four pilots Monday afternoon. Key information from those interviews will be made public at Tuesday's briefing.

First responders describe eerie, chaotic moments

Why so many people survived

CNN's Dan Simon and Richard Quest contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Asiana Flight 214 crash
updated 5:43 AM EDT, Tue July 9, 2013
The two teen girls were close friends, each looking forward to a summer trip to California to improve their English.
updated 10:35 AM EDT, Tue July 9, 2013
After 10 long hours in the sky, the Jang children couldn't wait to get off the plane.
updated 6:34 AM EDT, Wed July 10, 2013
I didn't expect my 5-year-old daughter to first learn about airplane crashes while we were in the air.
updated 10:41 PM EDT, Tue July 16, 2013
Passengers who were aboard Asiana Airlines Flight 214, which crashed in San Francisco, began legal action against Boeing Co., which made the plane, according to a law firm representing passengers.
updated 9:45 AM EDT, Wed July 17, 2013
The names, which some liken to slurs, spread everywhere -- triggering anger in the United States as well as South Korea.
updated 6:42 AM EDT, Fri July 12, 2013
Shortly after Asiana Airlines Flight 214 crashed in San Francisco, passengers and witnesses pleaded with 911 responders to send help -- some frantically, some insistently.
Here's what we know about the crash landing, told through animation and graphics.
updated 10:29 AM EDT, Tue July 9, 2013
As a plume of black smoke billowed from Asiana Airlines flight 214 after it crash landed, images were captured of passengers collecting their carry-on items before evacuating.
updated 3:46 PM EDT, Wed July 10, 2013
Inside the cockpit of the Airbus A380 at Le Bourget airport on June 12, 2005.
Pilots will need more cockpit training to become fully certified first officers for U.S. passenger and cargo airlines.
updated 2:00 AM EDT, Wed July 10, 2013
Veteran flight attendant Lee Yoon Hye sensed something was awry as Flight 214 neared the San Francisco International Airport runway.
updated 12:14 PM EDT, Wed July 10, 2013
As Asiana Airlines Flight 214 flew into San Francisco, the Boeing 777's 219 passengers didn't know that the man at the controls had never landed this kind of plane at this airport before.
updated 9:51 AM EDT, Mon July 8, 2013
"Look at that one -- look at how his nose is up in the air."
updated 8:41 PM EDT, Sun July 7, 2013
Of the 307 people on board, only two are confirmed dead.
updated 8:36 PM EDT, Sun July 7, 2013
Nearly three hours after the crash, David Eun walked through customs at San Francisco International Airport. By then, the adrenaline rush was subsiding enough that he could begin processing the enormity of it all.
updated 1:52 PM EDT, Fri July 19, 2013
Photos from the scene show a trail of debris down the runway and people waiting for their loved ones.
updated 8:19 PM EDT, Sun July 7, 2013
Asiana Airlines had coped with a pair of deadly crashes over the past 20 years before a Boeing 777 crash landed in San Francisco and burst into flames on Saturday.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT