Printed on: July 10, 2013

Flight attendants ejected in crash


SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (AP) -- The pilots of Asiana Flight 214 that crashed at San Francisco airport have told investigators they were relying on automated cockpit equipment to control their speed, turning a focus of the accident investigation toward whether a mistake was made setting the autothrottle or if it malfunctioned.

One of the most puzzling aspects of the crash Saturday is why the wide-body jet came in far too low and slow, clipping its landing gear and then its tail on a rocky seawall just short the runway. The plane then careened before slamming to the ground, killing two of the 307 people aboard the Boeing 777 and injuring scores of others.

Among those injured were two flight attendants in the back of the plane, who survived despite being thrown onto the runway when the plane slammed into the seawall.

National Transportation Safety Board chairman Deborah Hersman said Tuesday the training captain who was instructing the pilot flying the Boeing 777 has told investigators he thought the autothrottle was programmed for a speed of 137 knots -- the target speed the pilots had selected for how fast they wanted the plane to be flying when it crossed the runway threshold. Instead, the plane reached speeds as low as 103 knots and was in danger of stalling because it was losing lift before it hit the seawall.

The pilot said he realized the autothrottle, similar to a cruise control, was not engaged just seconds before they hit. Their last-second efforts to rev the plane back up and abort the landing failed, although numerous survivors report hearing the engines roar just before impact.