Asiana 214… What Happened?

By now, everyone has heard by now that a Boeing 777-200 crash landed yesterday at KSFO while landing on 28L. It was operated by Asiana airlines out of Korea. The Triple 7, AAR214, appeared to be way to low on approach and came into contact with the bank before the runway. It looks like the landing gear hit first and made the plane start to fishtail making it completely uncontrollable. It hit on its tail very hard, ripping of the horizontal and vertical stabilizers. The plane then spun on its belly and ended up 2,000 ft. from the end of the runway. Most of the passengers escaped via the inflatable slides. Unfortunately two fatalities were found outside the plane later in the day. Passenger accounts say that the plane felt like it was low on the approach. Before the strike they said the nose of the plane pitched quickly up. 

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Asiana Air 214 Crash at San Franciso June 6th, 2013

A very similar incident occurred to a British Airways 777 at London Heathrow in 2008. The plane suffered icing in both the engines fuel lines and the pilots lost all power. The plane landed short with a thud and it ripped the gears off. The plane slide on its belly and all passengers survived. This incident was due to the icing and the pilots did everything they could to keep the plane a loft. Was this the same thing that happened at KSFO now?

The weather was beautiful at the time of the crash and planes were flying in VMC and getting visual approaches to 28L and 28R. The ILS, instrument landing system, was inoperative for both runways during the crash due to construction. This should be a non-issue though. Pilots should be able to land their plane visually, without the aid of an autopilot on the glideslope. The Boeing 777 has a fantastic safety record. In fact the two passengers that passed yesterday were the first fatalities in the plane ever. The 777 was released in 1995 and there are over 1000 models flying the skies today.

Using all this information here is what I think caused the plane to crash, from least likely to most likely. 

            1. The plane suffered the same fate as the 777 that crashed in London. It somehow lost all power when on low approach and there was nothing the pilots could do. This is unlikely however. The Asiana 777 had Praight and Whitney engines from while the British Airways 777 had Rolls Royce engines. There was no reports of any problems from the crew of the Asiana 777 and the problem has been researched extensively after the London incident.

            2. The pilots were unaware that the ILS was inoperative for the runways that day. It is still possible to pick up a localizer signal even if it is inoperative. The pilots might not have checked the notams and flew the localizer anyways. If they did not visually check their approach, by looking out the window and checking the papi, they very well might have flown it into the ground. As an instrument student I know how important it is to make sure the localizers are working by identifying them and listening for the morse code.

            3. The pilots flew an unstable approach and decided to land instead of going around. Flight data from FlightAware show that the plane was above glideslope and slow for most of the approach. The pilots realized this and tried to get the plane down quickly to catch the glideslope. The pilots most likely descended too quickly and went through the glideslop. Seeing 4 red, “red over red and your dead” as the old saying goes, on the papi, the pilot went to initiate a go around. This was started too late however. The engines did not have enough time to spool up so the plane hit the sea embankment. This caused the vertical and horizontals stabilizers to come off sending the plane crashing to the ground. The inability of    the pilots to correctly fly a visual approach caused Asiana 214 to crash. It seems that this has been a problem for carriers based in Asia before. Flightglobal published an article about the inability of some pilots to land without an ILS working.

Now remember I am not a crash investigator and these are just my own opinions from all the information I have gathered. The FAA will have conclusive data eventually. They have the black boxes and will begin to analyze the fight recorder to figure the exact cause. If your interested, this video shows what a proper 777 landing looks like. There is also the ATC recordings from the incident.

 

What do you think happened? Comment below:

Photo Credit 

One thought on “Asiana 214… What Happened?

  1. Pingback: Media Over-Reactions to Flying Incidents | the Flying Blog

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