Transcript: Press briefing remarks by NTSB Chair Deborah Hersman on Asiana Flight 214 – July 8, 2013 – Part 4

Part 4: Partial transcript of press briefing remarks by Deborah Hersman, Chair of the National Transportation Safety Board, on the crash of Asiana Flight 214 in San Francisco Airport on July 6, 2013. The press briefing was held on July 8, 2013:

I’ve received many questions about the emergency response activities and the two fatalities. There have been a lot of questions about one of the fatalities with respect to an emergency response vehicle. We are still looking at this issue. It is a very serious issue and we want to understand it. The coroner has not yet determined the cause of death, and so we want to make sure that we have all the facts before we reach any conclusions. We are reviewing video, airport surveillance video, to understand also what happened. And I will tell you at least the initial read of the video by our investigators – they share with me that it wasn’t conclusive and so we really need to work and talk with people, conduct additional interviews, and let the coroner do their work.

I want to talk a little bit more about some of the information that’s on the flight data recorder and also some additional questions that have come up over the last couple of days, and I’ll just go over some of those briefly.

We want to make sure that you all understand that when we convey information to you that we do it clearly. Some of the news reports that I’ve read have some characterizations about the “go around” call. And I want to make sure that when we’re talking about the cockpit voice recorder that you understand that the cockpit voice recorder captures conversations inside the cockpit. Those conversations are generally between the two pilots but they can also be radio communications with other people, other organizations, air traffic control, other flights. They could capture conversations also with their operations or maintenance center.

The call-outs and the information that I shared with you yesterday – seven seconds prior to impact, they recognized that their speed is slow; four seconds prior to impact, they did a stick shaker activation; and one and a half seconds prior to impact, there was a call for a “go around”. And again, the “go around” means that they want to abort the landing and that they want to go around in the air and try to make the landing again.

All of those things that I described to you were things that we heard on the cockpit voice recorder. Those were conversations on the flight deck. It was not a call to air traffic control asking for permission to “go around”. It was a conversation that occurred inside the cockpit where crew called for a “go around”, where they gave command to a “go around”.

And so I just want to make sure that everybody understands that.

Cockpit voice recorder information is protected. There’s statutory protection for that. We cannot release the audio of the cockpit voice recorder. But I mentioned that we’re convening a recorder group in our lab in Washington D.C. What they will be working to do is produce a transcript – a written transcript of the cockpit voice recorder communications. We do provide the transcript of cockpit voice recorder communications in our public docket and we use that for the work that we do in preparing the final report.

Air traffic control tapes and air traffic control communications are different. Those occur over the airwaves. People can listen to those. They can listen into those, and very often the air traffic control teams are released. They are released by the Federal Aviation Administration that handles air traffic control operations. The NTSB does not release the air traffic control tapes. The FAA may do that at some point in the investigation, and they’re over the public airwaves; those conversations may be recorded.

The cockpit voice recorder communications occur inside the cockpit and those tapes are not released. Again, there’s a law. There’s statutory protection that keeps those audio tapes from being released. That’s why you won’t hear those tapes.

Just moving to clear that up, when we’re looking at some of the issues with respect to the crew, we’re looking at what they were doing and we want to understand why they were doing it. We want to understand what they knew and what they understood. Particularly, we’re going to be focusing on and I talked about those crew interviews that we’re conducting – we want to make sure we understand what was happening. But we also want to talk to them about whether they were hand flying the airplane, whether the autopilot was on, what kind of reliance they might have had on automation within the cockpit and how well they understood the automation and what it was supposed to do.

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