Asiana Airlines Crash: Pilot Had 43 Hours Flying Boeing 777

Pilots Learned Plane Was Going to Stall Seconds Before Crash

July 7, 2013, 7:27 AM

July 7, 2013— -- The pilot in charge of the Asiana Airlines jet that crashed on landing at San Francisco International Airport had just 43 hours on the Boeing 777, though he had significant flight time on other jets, airline officials said today.

Pilot Lee Kang-kook had flown a Boeing 777 nine previous times to other airports, but was flying the jet to SFO for the first time, Asiana Airlines spokeswoman Lee Hyo-min said.

"He is a veteran pilot with almost 10,000 hours on other aircrafts like the 747," she said. "He was in the process of getting a license for the new 777."

Lee flew with an experienced Boeing 777 pilot mentor, in accordance with world standard, the spokeswoman said.

Asiana Airlines Flight 214 was carrying more than 300 people when it crashed Saturday at San Francisco International Airport. The tail was torn off as it crashed, and it burst into flames.

The crash of the Boeing 777 killed two and injured 181 people. The injured were being cared for at several hospitals and at least 22 were in critical condition, according top hospital officials.

Data on the black boxes recovered from the jet showed that the pilots learned the plane was about to stall and tried to abort the landing just seconds before it crashed on the runway, the National Transportation Safety Board chair said today.

San Francisco Plane Crash: Asiana Airlines Flight 214 Crash Timeline

Analysis of the plane's recovered black boxes revealed that the control yoke shook in the pilot's hand at approximately four seconds before the plane crashed, NTSB Chair Deborah Hersman said. The pilots then attempted a "go around" to abort the landing, less than two seconds before the plane hit the runway.

Hersman said one of the flight crew members called to increase the plane's speed just seven seconds before impact, according to data the NTSB obtained from the cockpit voice recorder.

The Boeing 777 aircraft was traveling at a speed "significantly" below the target speed of 137 knots, but Hersman would not indicate how much slower the plane was traveling.

The plane's engines appeared to respond normally, she said.

SLIDESHOW: Plane Crashes at San Francisco Airport

The two passengers who died in the crash landing were identified as 16-year-old female students from China, according to officials and Chinese media reports.

Wang Linjia and Ye Mengyuan were part of a student group from Jiangshan Middle School in China's eastern Zhejiang province, according to Chinese media reports.

In a statement, China's Ministry of Education said at least 70 teachers and students from China were traveling to the U.S. to take part in a summer program.

Along with the spinal fractures, head trauma and abdominal injuries common in plane crashes, some survivors of the Asiana Airlines plane crash also had an unexpected rash all over their bodies, doctors at one San Francisco hospital found.

Many patients admitted to San Francisco General Hospital were covered in what was characterized as "road rash," a phenomenon more closely tied to people in motorcycle crashes when they aren't wearing leathers, San Francisco General Hopsital's chief of surgery Dr. Margaret Knudson said.

"It appears that they were dragged over something," she said.

Fifty one patients are at area hospitals after surviving the crash. Eight patients remained in critical condition.

Six of the patients, including one young girl, are receiving care at San Francisco General Hospital, Knudson said.

Many patients suffered severe abdominal bleeding that Knudson said might have been caused by the plane's seat belts. At least two individuals with spinal fractures were paralyzed and others suffered head trauma.

The hospital treated a total of 53 patients from the crash – more than any other hospital in the area. Twenty seven of those patients were adults ranging in age from 20 to 76, and 26 children received care as well. Of the 53, only 19 patients remained at the hospital as of this afternoon.

Some passengers sustained broken ribs or fractured sternums from the crash, Knudson said. Others experienced minor burns.

The majority of the passengers who were conscious enough to speak with doctors said they were sitting in the back of the plane, according to Knudson.

"One of the patients we talked to said the seats in front of her all collapsed and came at her," she said.

While doctors believe they have only been treating passengers from the crash, Knudson said she suspected some of the patients may have been flight attendants on board. Many patients have yet to be identified.

She commended emergency responders who triaged passengers once they were outside of the aircraft upon the plane's crash landing and said that without their help, she "didn't think they would have survived."

The Crash Investigation

National Transportation Safety Board investigators have recovered the plane's black boxes and they were sent to Washington to be analyzed.

NTSB officials said they hoped to interview the crew later today.

"We went out and looked at the accident aircraft. We have not yet talked to the pilot; we hope to do that in the coming days. But we have obtained the cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder, and they have been sent back to our labs in Washington. We hope that there is good data, good information on those, and we'll audition them today back at headquarters," NTSB Chair Deborah Hersman said today on "This Week."

The NTSB is working with Boeing, the Federal Aviation Administration, as well as the Korean Air and Accident Investigation Board to investigate the crash.

"We have a lot of work ahead of us. We have teams that will be looking at aircraft operations, at human performance, survival factors, and we'll be looking at the aircraft. We'll be looking at power plants, systems and structures. And so we really want to make sure we have a good understanding of the facts before we reach any conclusions," Hersman said.

FBI Special Agent in Charge David Johnson said Saturday that "at this point in time, there is no indication of terrorism."

Asiana President Yoon Young-doo said at news conference today that he didn't believe the crash was caused by mechanical failure or pilot error and that it would take time to find out what caused the crash, The Associated Press reported.

A government official involved in the accident investigation told ABC News that so far the airline has been cooperative with the investigation.

The first meeting between accident investigators and Asiana was going on this morning, according to this official.

Meanwhile, local law enforcement officials are working to ensure a smooth return home for passengers who experienced the crash.

San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirikami said he was coordinating with the Department of Homeland Security and Customs agents to process passengers through customs at the hospital then transport them to the airport so that they were "not further traumatized."

Flight 214's Crash Landing

Flight 214 originated in Shanghai, China, and had a stopover in Seoul, South Korea.

It was carrying 291 passengers, including an infant, plus at least 16 crew members, according to the airline.

An Asiana Airlines official in Seoul told ABC News that 141 Chinese, 77 South Koreans and 61 U.S. citizens were on board.

Vedpal Singh, a passenger who was on Asiana Airlines Flight 214, said he broke his collarbone.

"The moment it touched the runway there was bang and we we realized something has gone wrong, something terrible has happened," Singh said.

Aerials of the crash, provided by ABC's San Francisco station KGO-TV, showed the plane's tail severed from its body, as well as the majority of the aircraft's roof completely charred away. One of the plane's wings appeared to have snapped upon impact. Debris from the crash landing was scattered across the airport's runway 28.

Benjamin Levy, who was on the plane, said he's grateful to be alive.

"I mean, when I saw the hole in the front of the plane on the roof I wasn't quite sure if it was the fire afterward or if something had happened before. I couldn't tell," Levy said.

A video posted on YouTube showed gray smoke billowing from the plane, which was lying on the runway on its fuselage. Chutes had been deployed from the plane's emergency exits.

A witness described to ABC News what he saw when the plane was landing.

"The nose of the plane was higher than usual for a plane coming in to land and I thought that was odd," Stephen Dear said. "It got closer and closer. I saw the back tail hit the ground."

Dear said the plane then "caught fire immediately."

Crash Survivor Says Announcement Claimed the Plane Had Landed Safely: Read More

Stephanie Turner saw the Asiana Airlines flight crash and she was sure that she "had just seen a lot of people die."

Turner said that when she saw a plane preparing to land on the runway, it looked as if it was approaching at a strange angle.

"As we saw the approaching Asiana flight coming in, I noticed right away that the angle was wrong, that it was tilted too far back," she said. "The angle didn't manage to straighten out and the tail broke off."

"It looked like the plane had completely broken apart," Turner said. "The flames and smoke were just billowing."

Plane's Safety Record

The Boeing 777 is one of the safest airplanes in use, ABC News aviation analyst John Nance said.

"These airplanes are over the water, over the ocean all the time and Asiana has been running them for many years very successfully," Nance said.

Boeing issued a statement to on the news of the crash.

"Boeing extends its concern for the safety of those on board Asiana Airlines Flight 214," the company said. "Boeing is preparing to provide technical assistance to the National Transportation Safety Board as it investigates the accident."

Read More: Boeing 777 Records First Fatalities in Its 18 Year History

The last Boeing 777 to crash was a British Airways jet en route from Beijing to London's Heathrow airport, which crash landed short of the runway in January 2008. There were no fatalities, but 47 people on board sustained injuries.

The plane was powered by Pratt & Whitney PW4000 engines, according to a statement from the company's spokeswoman Pratt & Whitney.

Pratt & Whitney said it was cooperating with authorities, but declined to comment further.

ABC News' Joohee Cho, ABC News Radio and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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