Transcript: Press briefing remarks by NTSB Chair Deborah Hersman on Asiana Flight 214 – July 8, 2013 – Part 6

Part 6: 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:

Question: [Inaudible]

Deborah Hersman, NTSB Chairman:
Sure, there are two questions here. The first has to do with how many of the crew members were in the cockpit at the time of the accident. And we will have to get back to you on that information. As I mentioned, we wanted to make sure that the information that we have is corroborated through those interviews with all four of the pilots today and so we will provide that information back to you when those interviews are completed.

The second question has to do with whether or not the crew received any warnings or alerts prior to the stick shaker. The information that we have is I have not been briefed on any prior alerts that the crew received that were audible on the CVR [cockpit voice recorder]. That doesn’t mean there weren’t other alerts. But I have not been briefed on it. We are convening that CVR group. They will be going over in detail everything that they hear on the cockpit voice recorder. But I will tell you, very often people discuss or talk about alerts that come from ground proximity warning system…that alerts them to proximity to terrain. You have to remember that this aircraft was configured for landing, thereby some of those tools, those warnings, those would be purposely disabled. They’re coming down, they’re getting very close to the Earth, and so if it’s proximity warnings that people are looking for, you’re not going to get those if the aircraft is configured for landing.

We don’t have any awareness of any MSAW alerts – the minimum safe altitude warning alert – from air traffic control. No other alerts from air traffic control that would have indicated they need to alert the flight crew of a problem.

There may be some other indications that the crew could get, perhaps, a Amber band – we’re talking about a speed tape now to let them know their speed, what they’re looking for, what they want to achieve. They may have been getting some cues but I do not have any information about any audible cues or warnings that showed up in the cockpit voice recorder prior to the stick shaker.

Question: [Inaudible]

Deborah Hersman, NTSB Chairman:
The question has to do with the pilot’s experience on prior aircraft types such as the 747 and transitioning to a 777 and what that training might entail.

As I mentioned earlier in the briefing, I’m really going to try to focus on the crew and their training, their experience, and their history after we conduct the four interviews today. We do not want to bias those interviews that are contemporaneously taking place right now. We want the crew to provide information. we don’t want to influence the responses. When we get those interviews completed from the crew, we will then provide you with additional information from the records and from those four interviews.

Question: [Inaudible]

Deborah Hersman, NTSB Chairman:
We’ve got another question about training and with respect to check pilots or training pilots and the questions are what are those standards or requirements? Do they vary from airline to airline or country to country? That’s another area we will check into and report back to you.

We know that there are a lot of questions about the pilots and their experience, their background, and their training. We’re going to work to complete a really a very full battery of information to provide to you, and we hope to do that when these interviews are completed today in the next day or so. Again, we will be back. We will provide you with more factual information. I know everybody wants all of the information right away. You have to recognize our teams have a lot of work ahead of them and we’re trying to gather first the perishable evidence – things that might expire. We want to conduct these interviews but we will be back. We will provide you with additional information.

Question: [Inaudible]

Deborah Hersman, NTSB Chairman:
The question is we talked about the aircraft’s speed on approach. Can we provide any more information about their vertical position on the approach? Or their height coming in and where they were on the flight path?

That sort of information will probably take additional work. We want to make sure that when we provide you with information that we have confidence in it. That is important information for us to understand and take a look at. We do have some information from the flight data recorder but we really want to take a look at that information and compare it with what air traffic control has to make sure that we’re on the mark.

Question: [Inaudible]

Deborah Hersman, NTSB Chairman:
The question has to do with our two victims from this crash and when the autopsy report will come out. I will defer to the San Mateo coroner’s office. They are responsible for conducting those autopsies, determining cause of death. That is their area of expertise and we will allow them to make any announcements.

Question: [Inaudible]

Deborah Hersman, NTSB Chairman:
The question is if the pilot is coming in on the approach too slow, is there a responsibility by ground control to notify the pilot of that, and the answer is no. The pilot is responsible for the crew. And remember, again, there are two pilots in the cockpit. The crew is responsible for making a safe approach to the airport. Air traffic control is there to provide separation between aircrafts to make sure aircrafts don’t collide, provide them services on the airport, but they are not responsible for management – for speed management on the aircraft. That is in the purview of the pilot.

Question: [Inaudible]

Deborah Hersman, NTSB Chairman:
…The first question is has language been a barrier in this accident or this accident investigation. The pilots are speak Korean. English is the universal language in aviation. Everyone is expected to speak proficient enough in English to communicate with air traffic control in any country in the world. And so we are certainly going to be looking to see if there are any miscommunications or misinformation that was provided but we don’t have any information at this point that that was an issue. It has not provided a barrier to our investigative activities.

As I mentioned, we have excellent cooperation from our colleagues around the world. And I have to tell you, there are a lot of airplanes that crash in other countries that the NTSB goes to investigate with our counterparts. We have investigated events involving U.S. manufactured aircrafts landing short in the last year in a number of other countries. We work with our counterparts in those countries. They are working with us investigating this accident here.

Language is an issue in that we want to make sure that the crew has a good understanding of the questions that are being asked, that in their responses that we are clear in the responses and that we’re representing things accurately. We don’t want people to be confused by that. We don’t want them to be surprised.

We’re going to take as much time as we need to get the interviews done right and in a way that the crew members are able to communicate comfortably.

The second question has to do with where the two fatalities were in the aircraft as far as seating location. I can tell you that the two fatalities were located in seats towards the rear of the aircraft. And again, this is an area of the aircraft that was structurally significantly damaged. You can see that from the external shots of the aircraft. And it’s an area where we’re seeing a lot of the critical or serious injuries that occurred as well.

Question: [Inaudible]

Deborah Hersman, NTSB Chairman:
The question was whether or not the pilot had a heart attack. I have no information – this is the first time I’m hearing the pilot had a heart attack. I’m not aware of any medical services that were provided to the pilot…I have not received any indication that the pilot had a heart attack prior to the crash. That was a question I received but we do not have any information nor do I have any medical documentation from the emergency responders that he was treated for a heart attack…

Question: [Inaudible]

Deborah Hersman, NTSB Chairman:
The first question has to do with the relief pilots and how they were used. Recall that I said there were four pilots on the aircraft. There are two separate crews or pairs in the cockpit. There are two pilots that fly – left seat, right seat. Traditionally, captain and first officer. And generally, you would see on this long trans-Pacific flight – the reason why they have two crews is they want to make sure that they can get rest. There are flight and duty time limitations, and there’s also – considering what’s safe for pilots – fatigue situation. They do have rest quarters up near the front of the plane so that the two that are flying, the other two can get rest. The question was were the relief pilots used? We don’t have any reason to believe that they were not used. That is the expectation of why you have two crews so they will switch out. But as I said, we are conducting those interviews today with the four crew members. We will determine exactly what happened, when it happened, and how it happened, and if it was consistent with their processes and procedures or if there was any deviations.

The second question was about the evacuation slides. I mentioned that we’re taking a very close look at survival factor issues and that includes the emergency doors and exists and the slides – how they were deployed, if they were deployed quickly, if there were any malfunctions. We want to understand all of that.

When I visited the aircraft, I saw all of the doors that were open. Saw some of the slides that were all deployed. I’ll tell you the first night that I went out there, I did see slides on the left-hand side of the airplane that were still inflated and actually still had their lights activated for an overwater event.

Our team is going to be documenting how those slides were deployed. We have heard that there were some problems inside the aircraft. There have been some interviews with flight attendants and witnesses that slides deployed inside the aircraft. We need to understand why that happened. We need to understand if it had occurred inadvertently or if somebody didn’t activate the slides correctly or if it activated on its own. We need to document all of that. That’s information that we hope to get back to you.

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