On Thursday, National Transportation Safety Board chairman Deborah Hersman provided her final incremental update on the on-site investigation following the deadly crash of Asiana flight 214 in San Francisco. Among those updates was a clarification on a statement by the pilot flying the plane, indicating that he saw a flash of light just before landing. While that comment sparked some speculation yesterday, according to the NTSB, the pilot doesn't think that flash affected his ability to land the plane.
Specifically, the pilot told investigators that he could still see flight control instruments after the flash, which he believed to be the sun's reflection. Hersman also tentatively ruled out a few more mechanical factors that may have contributed to the disastrous landing, noting that investigators found "no anomalous behavior" in the autopilot, flight director and auto-throttles. The NTSB has also ruled out the possibility that the fire following the crash started by a punctured fuel tank.
The agency also provided a few more detailed accounts of the scope of the damage from the crash. One particularly vivid account came from a first responder firefighter who entered one of the front doors of the plane. The firefighter described the contrast between the front and the back of the plane. He entered the front door of the aircraft, where he thought that it looked like "if you just fluffed the pillows a little bit you could turn the plane around" and send it out to its next flight. But then he kept waking. Further back, the damage got worse and worse. That's corroborated by a structural analysis of the plane post-crash, which notes that by the back of the plane, its structural integrity was essentially gone. Here's a post-fire photo of the interior of the plane, via the NTSB:
The NTSB is working on cleaning and returning personal items from passengers. They're also almost done removing debris from the debris field. The agency released a photo of the aftermath of the crash to show just how much debris they're talking about here:
There are still a number of questions out there about the events surrounding the crash, which killed two and injured over 100 people. Was the post-crash scene confusing? Is a communication breakdown to blame? What about the inexperience of the pilot flying the plane? Is pilot error even at fault? The NTSB, while providing quite a bit of information on their investigation to the media and the public, have been careful about not crossing the line into analysis at this point. And we'll have to wait awhile to find out what their thoughts are on probable cause.
Hersman indicated that the final report from the agency on the crash shouldn't be ready for another year, on the fast side for their agency. But if they discover any particular safety issues that would prompt a recommendation from their agency, they might speak about that sooner. Hersman added that the information released to the public so far represents the "tip of the iceberg" in their investigation.