Investigators Dismiss Rumor That Asiana Flight 214 Descended Too Steeply

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The South Korean Boeing 777 that crashed at the San Francisco airport on Saturday most likely wasn't descending too steeply, and had two working engines at the time of impact, according to the latest round of incremental updates on the investigation into what went wrong. On Monday, the National Transportation Safety Board held another press conference shortly after Asiana Airlines revealed that the pilot landing the doomed plane was a novice at the Boeing 777, having logged just 43 hours flying it. 

On Sunday, the NTSB outlined an initial timeline of events leading to the crash. And while it looks like none of the basics have changed, the agency has added to the story. So here's what's new: 

—There's no evidence suggesting an abnormally steep descent. There was an early rumor that the plane was in a steep descent just before impact, dropping 4,000 feet per minute. The radar data analyzed by the NTSB, however, doesn't support that rumor. From what the agency has released so far, it looks like the concern here isn't the steepness of the descent, but rather its speed. 

At impact, the 777 was 31 knots below target air speed. The NTSB has already explained that the plane came into San Francisco at a speed "significantly" off target, but now they've outlined just how off they were. And the slow speed wasn't due to engine problems: "The engines indicate that both engines were producing power," NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman said on Monday. 

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The pilot was new to the 777, and was flying it into SFO for the first time. According to Asiana Airlines, the pilot in charge of the crashed jet was Lee Kang-kook. He has over 10,000 hours of flying experience, but almost all of that is on the 747. He had just 43 hours flying time on a 777, over a total of nine training flights with the plane to other airports. He was accompanied by a "mentor" pilot with significant experience on the jet. That "mentor" was Lee Kang-kuk, who was on his first flight himself as a trainer

Some emergency chutes may have deployed inside the aircraft. According to an Associated Press report, cabin manager Lee Yoon-hye has said that two of the emergency chutes on board the plane deployed inside the aircraft. Crew members had to manually deflate the slide in order to free two pinned flight attendants. 

Cause of death still in question for one of the two crash victims. At the Monday news conference, a San Francisco Fire Department spokesperson explained that officials are still investigating whether one of the two crash victims may have been killed by an emergency vehicle responding to the crash: “As you can imagine, it’s a very dynamic environment with an aircraft fire and some 300 victims,” Assistant Deputy Chief Dale Carnes told reporters. The SFFD said they won't answer more questions on the incident until an investigation is completed. 

On Monday, the NTSB also added that they'll interview all four pilots aboard the plane today, as they continue to document the entire wreckage and sift through the data sources that might bring more clarity to the cause of the crash. 

Update: 6:13 p.m.: And here's a video of the aftermath of the crash that's making the rounds.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.