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

Deborah Hersman, the National Transportation Safety Board Chairwoman, speaks at a news conference on Monday, July 8, updating
Deborah Hersman, the National Transportation Safety Board Chairwoman, speaks at a news conference on Monday, July 8, updating their investigation into Saturday’s Asiana Airlines Flight 214 plane crash at San […]

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. 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, he had only 43 hours of flying time in a 777.
  2. 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. 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). At seven seconds before impact, the pilots attempted to spool up the engines. At four seconds, the stall warning sounded. At 1.5 seconds before impact, the pilots tried to abort the landing. Passengers on board the aircraft describe the engines spooling up and the nose tilting up just before impact.
  4. What we don’t know: Why was the aircraft approaching so slowly? Did the pilot not realize he was short?
  5. Flight tracking records show that Asiana Flight 214 descended from cruising altitude much more steeply and rapidly than previous Asiana flights on the same route
  6. 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.
  7. The runway’s precision approach path indicator lights, showing correct flight approach altitudes, were working.
  8. What we don’t know: Why didn’t the pilot recognize he was too low for the approach and initiate a go-around earlier?
  9. 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. Some aircraft debris ended up in the water.
  10. The debris field runs from the water, slightly right of the paved threshold and runway center, all the way to the stopped aircraft fuselage.
  11. 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.
  12. What we don’t know: Is this an indication the tail of the aircraft detached after first impact?
  13. What appears to be the Boeing 777’s right engine is detached from the wing and wedged against the right side of the fuselage. Another engine is a considerable distance from the fuselage in a grassy area to the right of Runway 28L. It appears to be the left engine.
  14. Most of the fire damage to the aircraft occurred after the Boeing 777 came to a stop on its belly.
  15. 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.
  16. The coroner says one of the two passengers killed appears to have been run over by an emergency vehicle. Asiana has identified the two deceased as Ye Mengyuan and Wang Linjia of China. Both were 16.
  17. Audio recordings of air traffic control conversations show the pilot did not declare an emergency before the crash landing. Emergency vehicles were dispatched afterward.
  18. The aircraft was built in 2006 and was purchased new by Asiana.

CNN’s Chelsea J. Carter, Aaron Cooper, Richard Quest and Miguel Marquez contributed to this report.

Richard T. Griffiths | CNN