The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

National and world

July 10, 2013

Crash investigators turn to cockpit decisions

(Continued)

SAN FRANCISCO — It's not unusual for veteran pilots to learn about new aircraft by flying with more experienced colleagues. Another pilot on the flight, Lee Jeong-min, had 12,390 hours of flying experience, including 3,220 hours on the 777, according to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport in South Korea.

Lee Jeong-min was the deputy pilot helping Lee Gang-guk get accustomed to the 777, according to Asiana Airlines.

It was unclear whether the other two pilots were in the cockpit, which in the Boeing 777 typically seats four. But that would be standard procedure at most airlines at the end of a long international flight.

NTSB lead investigator Bill English said pilot interviews were going slowly because of the need for translation. The interviews began only after agents from the Korean Aviation and Rail Accident Investigation Board arrived from South Korea.

New details of the investigation have also raised questions about whether the pilots may have been so reliant on automated cockpit systems that they failed to notice the plane's airspeed had dropped dangerously low, aviation safety experts and other airline pilots said.

Information gleaned from the Boeing 777's flight-data recorders revealed a jet that appeared to be descending normally until the last half-minute before impact.

The autopilot was switched off at about 1,600 feet as the plane began its final descent, according to an account of the last 82 seconds of flight provided by Hersman.

Over the next 42 seconds, the plane appeared to descend normally, reaching about 500 feet and slowing to 134 knots (154 mph), a 777 pilot for a major airline familiar with Hersman's description told The Associated Press. The pilot spoke on the condition of anonymity because his company had not authorized him to speak publicly.

But something went wrong during the following 18 seconds. The plane continued slowing to 118 knots (136 mph), well below its target speed of 137 knots (158 mph) that is typical for crossing the runway threshold. By that time, it had descended to just 200 feet.

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