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Boeing 777 Crashes At San Francisco Airport 506

Posted by Soulskill
from the be-safe dept.
Asiana Flight 214 from Seoul crashed while landing at San Francisco Airport today. Early reports suggest the plane was unstable as it touched down, which led to the tail of the plane breaking off. There are no official casualty reports yet, but passengers were seen walking off the plane. Preliminary estimates say one or two dead and 75 being transported to area hospitals. (Others are reporting two dead and several dozen injured.) Eyewitness report: "You heard a pop and you immediately saw a large, brief fireball that came out from underneath the aircraft," Anthony Castorani said on CNN. "At that moment, you could see that that aircraft was again starting to lift and it began to cartwheel [Ed: he likely means spinning horizontally, like a top]. The wing broke off on the left hand side. You could see the tail immediately fly off of the aircraft. As the aircraft cartwheeled, it then landed down and the other wing had broken." The media has estimated about 290 people were on board the plane. The top of the cabin was aflame at one point, but it's not known yet whether that affected the passengers. "Federal sources told NBC News that there was no indication of terrorism." Some images from the news make it look like the plane may have tried to touch down too early, hitting the seawall just before the runway.
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Boeing 777 Crashes At San Francisco Airport

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  • by cashman73 (855518) on Saturday July 06, 2013 @04:53PM (#44205069) Journal
    Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit smoking!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 06, 2013 @04:56PM (#44205103)

    This is the problem with non-free airplanes. If the blueprints had been free under a freedom preserving license I'm sure the problem that caused the hiccup had been found.

    • This is the problem with non-free airplanes. If the blueprints had been free under a freedom preserving license I'm sure the problem that caused the hiccup had been found.

      . . . and the plane could have been printed on an off the shelf 3D printer . . .

      • by Trepidity (597)

        Wouldn't even have had to print the plane; just print the passengers at the destination.

      • Re:Open airplanes (Score:5, Informative)

        by Jodka (520060) on Saturday July 06, 2013 @07:19PM (#44205947)

        This is the problem with non-free airplanes. If the blueprints had been free under a freedom preserving license I'm sure the problem that caused the hiccup had been found.

        . . . and the plane could have been printed on an off the shelf 3D printer . . .

        . . .and from the MakerPlane website:
        "MakerPlane [makerplane.org] is an open source aviation organization which will enable people to build and fly their own safe, high quality, reasonable cost plane using advanced personal manufacturing equipment such as...3D printers."

    • Re:Open airplanes (Score:5, Informative)

      by tibit (1762298) on Saturday July 06, 2013 @06:19PM (#44205669)

      Unfortunately, most airplane accidents and incidents are due to pilot error, ATC error and maintenance mechanic error (I think in this order). Problems with hardware or firmware that are unrecoverable in spite of following proper procedures are pretty damn rare. For example, AF447 was not directly caused by any hardware failing - it was due to the pilots not following procedures and good practice.

      • Re:Open airplanes (Score:5, Insightful)

        by evilviper (135110) on Saturday July 06, 2013 @07:49PM (#44206099) Journal

        Unfortunately, most airplane accidents and incidents are due to pilot error

        Repeat after me: "human factors"

        Almost any accident can be prevent by a prescient pilot always making PERFECT decisions.

        Passing accidents off as pilot error in all but the most egregious cases, is massively disingenuous, and something airlines and manufacturers like to do to shield themselves from all liability that they deserve.

        Airlines trained pilots to do something stupid? Pilot error.
        Airlines failed to train pilots on the new systems? Pilot error.
        Counter-intuitive controls resulted in a pilot throttling down instead of up, and crashing? Pilot error.
        Stall warning systems were non-functional, and the pilot wasn't fastidiously checking sensors? Pilot error.
        Airline was juggling pilot schedules around, making them work with little sleep? Pilot error.

        • Re:Open airplanes (Score:4, Interesting)

          by AK Marc (707885) on Saturday July 06, 2013 @10:14PM (#44206801)
          This will be pilot error. My guess is improper flap position. Even if the flaps failed, he should have made a safe landing. But trusting the flap indicator over the airspeed and altimeter will be called an error. Is it an error to trust one instrument over another? It is when you made them both. He *obviously* should have paid attention to the correct one. Or possibly, he was too tired after a long flight and royally screwed up. He should have been adding throttle at the end, not pulling up and letting off. But he was trying to land with no flaps on a flaps approach, rather than executing a missed approach and getting away from that ground to figure out why. If he had scrubbed 50 mph with the "flare" at the end and didn't touch tail, we likely would never have known.

          The pilot will be fired, and the crew rotation will be reviewed, yet again. We'll be no safer, but we'll be told we are.
          • by jbwolfe (241413)
            Not sure what information you have that leads to this conclusion. Improper landing configuration (flaps not set, gear not down) sounds a warning that cannot be silenced. The cause will be determined in due time. There may well have been pilot error, but there are parallels between this and BA38 in LHR that was attributed to fuel freezing in the fuel control.
          • Re:Open airplanes (Score:4, Insightful)

            by DieByWire (744043) on Sunday July 07, 2013 @12:26AM (#44207285)

            This will be pilot error.

            Possible. Statistically speaking, you could say that about any crash without any evidence and you'd be right more often than wrong. But it's by no means guaranteed, and the evidence isn't in yet.

            Remember BA at Heathrow?

            My guess is improper flap position.

            You will be shown to be wrong. Guaranteed.

            But he was trying to land with no flaps on a flaps approach.

            Really. Thank you for informing us of this fact. Amazing how the leading edge magically deployed itself after the crash.

            The only other thing I guarantee right now is that this thread will spout uninformed, infuriating drivel like the AF447 articles did.

            Single engine is AK is very different from airline and transpac flying. Please spare us your conclusions based on zero evidence or relevant experience. It's painful enough as it is without hearing such drivel.

      • Re:Open airplanes (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Colonel Korn (1258968) on Saturday July 06, 2013 @10:39PM (#44206905)

        Unfortunately, most airplane accidents and incidents are due to pilot error, ATC error and maintenance mechanic error (I think in this order). Problems with hardware or firmware that are unrecoverable in spite of following proper procedures are pretty damn rare. For example, AF447 was not directly caused by any hardware failing - it was due to the pilots not following procedures and good practice.

        If you read the black box transcript from AF447 the most notable single problem was that two of the three qualified pilots in the cockpit believed that the stick was being pushed forward, when in fact it was being pulled back.

        When a plane stalls, a common panicked reaction is to pull back on the stick in an attempt to point the plane back into the sky. A lot of training goes into eliminating this instinct, because the solution is actually the opposite - point the noise toward the ground to regain speed. IIRC, the copilot was pulling back on the stick for the last several minutes even as the pilot and the alternate pilot (or a flight engineer or something, I forget) were saying things like, "we're pushing on the stick, why aren't we gaining airspeed?"

        The communication problem was largely caused by an major Airbus design flaw: the sticks between the left and right seats aren't linked. In other planes, the pilot would have known the copilot had the stick pulled back because the action would make his own stick move back as well. On AF447, the pilot saw nothing other than the copilot's hand on the stick and assumed he was doing the right thing, and in the understandable confusion as they struggled to gain control of the plane the copilot never verbally corrected the misconception.

        Certainly pilot error in response to some external factors that aren't that uncommon (like a pitot tube freezing) was the direct cause of the crash of AF447, but a more sensible flight control design would have likely prevented the pilot error.

        • by jbwolfe (241413)

          The communication problem was largely caused by an major Airbus design flaw: the sticks between the left and right seats aren't linked. In other planes, the pilot would have known the copilot had the stick pulled back because the action would make his own stick move back as well. On AF447, the pilot saw nothing other than the copilot's hand on the stick and assumed he was doing the right thing, and in the understandable confusion as they struggled to gain control of the plane the copilot never verbally corrected the misconception.

          Incorrect, there is no design flaw. As designed, if both pilots make a flight control input simultaneously, they will receive an aural warning: "Dual Input". They will know about it and either pilot can take priority over the other by pushing a button on the stick which will lock out the other.

          • Re:Open airplanes (Score:4, Insightful)

            by ttucker (2884057) on Sunday July 07, 2013 @12:48AM (#44207347)

            Incorrect, there is no design flaw. As designed, if both pilots make a flight control input simultaneously, they will receive an aural warning: "Dual Input". They will know about it and either pilot can take priority over the other by pushing a button on the stick which will lock out the other.

            Certainly this would have been the only alarm they were hearing or blinking light they were seeing, you know in a stalling aircraft.... A "Dual Input" light is just the kind of tired, stupid, shit, that an engineer would say is good enough, but really just is not.

            • by jbwolfe (241413)
              All the alarms and blinking lights are listed in the actual accident investigation report here:http://www.bea.aero/docspa/2009/f-cp090601.en/pdf/f-cp090601.en.pdf [bea.aero] To sum up, they unwisely flew into an area of weather that they were painting on radar. Lost air data systems (not attitude or inertial info) that provided airspeed, vertical speed and altitude, the autopilot which relies on this info disconnected leaving the aircraft to be flown by the only entity capable- the pilots, who then allowed the aircraf
              • by swalve (1980968)
                It seems like it actually is a design flaw, in that the overall design is flawed. What you are describing as a design flaw is more correctly an implementation flaw or an engineering mistake. If the system works as designed, then any flaws must be design flaws.

                If a pilot is panicking to the point that he is flying wrong, he will be hitting the lockout button because he will think he is right. What happens when both pilots hit the lockout button? Do they just fight back and forth? It is almost by defini
  • Photo (Score:5, Informative)

    by Black Parrot (19622) on Saturday July 06, 2013 @04:56PM (#44205107)

    http://thinkprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/SFO_crash-e1373139561971.png [thinkprogress.org]

    Shows it upright, with at least one wing still attached.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Trepidity (597)

      My favorite part of the reporting this evening was when CNN had text on-screen quoting the words of a caller who said the plane had lost both wings. In the background behind the text was helicopter footage of the plane, with both wings quite clearly still attached...

  • Except (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 06, 2013 @04:56PM (#44205109)

    It didn't cartwheel, it spun around like a top.

    • Listening to the audio clip of the witness who originally said that (third video on the first-linked page), I believe he meant that the airplane began to roll left, not that it actually completed a tumble in any particular direction. The left wing hit the ground during that "beginning to cartwheel" event, then the wheels all touched down and it came to a stop.

  • No Cartwheeling (Score:3, Informative)

    by Ganty (1223066) on Saturday July 06, 2013 @04:57PM (#44205121)

    Pictures show the aircraft sat on the ground with the tail missing and the forward roof burnt out but it certainly did NOT cartwheel or bits would be scattered down the runway. It seems that all passengers and crew have been accounted for with no fatalities.

    Ganty

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      At least 2 dead, which is quite amazing: http://www.ktvu.com/news/news/local/boeing-777-crashes-while-landing-sfo/nYfcx/

    • Re:No Cartwheeling (Score:5, Insightful)

      by sribe (304414) on Saturday July 06, 2013 @05:21PM (#44205303)

      Pictures show the aircraft sat on the ground with the tail missing and the forward roof burnt out but it certainly did NOT cartwheel...

      I happened to check news just as this story was breaking. The word "cartwheel" came from the first eyewitness report. The next two eyewitnesses said it "spun". So I'm guessing that the guy who said "cartwheel" doesn't really know what the word means, and that instead it spun on its belly.

      • by Deadstick (535032)

        Yes, a cartwheel in an airplane that big is catastrophic. But how do you deal with people who don't know what "yaw" means?

    • Re:No Cartwheeling (Score:5, Insightful)

      by girlintraining (1395911) on Saturday July 06, 2013 @05:35PM (#44205391)

      certainly did NOT cartwheel or bits would be scattered down the runway. It seems that all passengers and crew have been accounted for with no fatalities.

      The term "cartwheel" has different meanings to different people. Unfortunately, just like with the Boston Bombing, CNN rushed a story out without getting its facts straight, though at least this time it was somewhat more substantial than pure speculation.

      At this time, it appears the plane's air speed was too low on final approach, and the pilot may have over-corrected by throttling up and then (mistakenly) putting the nose further up as a panic measure; This resulted in a severe tail strike on the sea wall, and the plane would have become aerodynamically unstable immediately after.

      Typically in these scenarios, the plane (appears) to shoot upwards briefly due to the sudden change in weight distribution, and comes down on angled heavily to one side (having lost any ability to control lateral movement). The wing will typically sheer off, as they're actually designed to break away from the fuselage in such an event, and the plane will roll onto its roof then (if speed is high enough) or the nose will take a digger, break off, and the whole thing will flip in the air and then promptly "face plant" in the dirt in one piece.

      Either way, the plane did exactly what it was designed to do -- separate the flammables from the fuselage where the passengers were, and maintain integrity until all motion stops. The emergency crew's prompt response is what saved everyone's lives -- most people don't die due to the impact or fire, but rather smoke inhalation.

      This is a text-book crash landing, and the investigation will now focus on whether a mechanical fault caused the plane to lose speed at the last moment (bird strike on engine is common), or whether the pilot neglected to flare correctly. Judging by the debris, it looks like it would have been a steep descent with flare at the end -- which results in a faster landing and is preferred at high-volume airports, over a shallower approach, with less flare. If the pilot is inexperienced, distracted, or any number of a dozen other things go wrong (one plane crash I know of was due to a circuit breaker trip-out which meant the captain did not have 'stick shake' or stall alarm warnings in this exact scenario) -- there's very little time to react, and even going to full power take off speed will not prevent disaster due to the steep descent angle, lack of altitude, and lack of speed.

      Any airplane pilot knows the key to a successful crash landing is speed and altitude -- they add precious seconds to react to an emergency. This plane had neither.

    • Re:No Cartwheeling (Score:5, Informative)

      by Solandri (704621) on Saturday July 06, 2013 @06:18PM (#44205667)

      Pictures show the aircraft sat on the ground with the tail missing and the forward roof burnt out but it certainly did NOT cartwheel or bits would be scattered down the runway.

      There are actually bits of debris on the runway [turner.com] starting almost with the rocks separating the runway from the bay. The integrity of the fuselage says it did not cartwheel (objects this big don't move in one piece like the movies - they'll disintegrate with just moderate lateral forces). But the debris trail and missing tail suggest it came down at a high angle of attack hitting tail-first possibly from a stall (in a regular landing you hit landing gear-first), then hit the ground hard enough to collapse its landing gear and skid off the runway. The jagged yellow partial dome you see at the tail end of the fuselage is the plane's aft pressure bulkhead - the end of the pressurized section of the fuselage. So nobody was in the tail portion which broke off.

      The high AOA suggests the pilot was pulling up trying to gain altitude (or at least decrease the rate he was losing it). Possible reasons are an engine problem (with inadequate thrust, pilot was trying desperately to glide a little further to make the runway) or some failure of the flaps (if they retract, they increase the plane's stall speed possibly causing the plane to drop out of the air). Or wind shear (sudden tailwind deprives the plane of lift and pilot pulls up to try to maintain altitude - unlikely given the weather). Or pilot error (was coming in too high and tried to bleed altitude too quickly, instead of declaring a missed approach and trying again), though the tail striking short of the runway makes this unlikely unless the pilot accidentally put the plane into a stall.

    • by jamesh (87723)

      Pictures show the aircraft sat on the ground with the tail missing and the forward roof burnt out but it certainly did NOT cartwheel or bits would be scattered down the runway. It seems that all passengers and crew have been accounted for with no fatalities.

      Ganty

      That's what I would have thought, but it turns out someone had a camera pointed in that direction at the time of the crash, and even if it wasn't strictly a cartwheel, it is completely reasonable for a witness to describe it that way as it does look like it spun on at least a 45 degree angle. Could just be the angle the camera though (An animated version of the events shows no such thing).

      It's also possible that the footage is from a completely different crash. Wouldn't be the first time.

  • I figured it out (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I'm going to go on record saying that hitting the sea-wall first instead of the runway had something to do with it. You know, physics, and all that shit.

  • Survivor Story (Score:5, Informative)

    by XiaoMing (1574363) on Saturday July 06, 2013 @05:06PM (#44205187)

    Samsun Exec. David Eun survives, posts pic [theverge.com]. Then proceeds to teach CNN some manners [twitter.com].

  • by Animats (122034) on Saturday July 06, 2013 @05:09PM (#44205221) Homepage

    The tail broke off, not the wings. And the aircraft didn't "cartwheel". There are many good pictures of the wreckage. The wreckage is sitting on the ground alongside the runway, right side up, wings intact, on its belly. The tail assembly is completely detached from the plane. Much fire damage to the top of the fuselage, which is puzzling.

    There are pictures of the passengers evacuating, including, inevitably, one of the passengers who just evacuated taking pictures of the plane.

    Too early to discuss causes. Reports indicate the plane landed short in an nose-up attitude, but it's too early to say why.

    • by gl4ss (559668)

      the fire damage seems post immediate crash time. there's an early pic from when people were getting out of the plane where the roof doesn't seem burnt through.

  • No Casualties (Score:3, Informative)

    by JavaBear (9872) on Saturday July 06, 2013 @05:12PM (#44205237)

    http://avherald.com/h?article=464ef64f&opt=0 [avherald.com]

    The aircraft burst into flames and burned out, all occupants were able to evacuate the aircraft in time and are alive. There are reports of a number of injuries, mainly burns, the majority of occupants escaped without injuries.

    Emergency services reported all occupants have been accounted for and are alive.

    • by petsounds (593538)

      NBC is currently reporting two confirmed deaths, 10 people airlifted in critical condition, dozens of others injured.

    • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Saturday July 06, 2013 @06:15PM (#44205657)

      It means serious injuries or deaths. In military speak, which is where it comes from, it means a soldier hurt to the point they can't go back and fight. So someone who's dead: casualty. Someone who has a compound fracture in both legs: casualty. Someone who has a surface cut on their arm: not a casualty.

      There's not as hard and fast a civilian definition, but it is just if the injury is serious. It is a useful number for determining how bad something is. Number of injuries period is irrelevant, number of fatalities while relevant doesn't tell the whole store. Number of fatalities and casualties gives a good idea of the human damage that happened in an incident.

  • No shit, how the hell have we gotten to the point where every accident report is accompanied with that phrase.

  • Never trust eyewitness, because from the actual photos that are online the wings seem very much attached to the plane. The tail is missing and the top is burned out, though.

  • by McGruber (1417641) on Saturday July 06, 2013 @05:41PM (#44205447)
    Some interesting photos and data have shown up on twitter today. First, here is (I think) the original source of that photo taken by a passenger: https://twitter.com/Eunner [twitter.com]

    Second, here is a photo, taken across a small bay, showing the plane crashing: https://twitter.com/stefanielaine/status/353591123958173696/photo/1 [twitter.com]

    And, most interesting, a comparison of flightpath data (from flightaware.com) of yesterday's flight against today's flight: https://twitter.com/sbaker/status/353611787750494208/photo/1 [twitter.com]

    While I am no expert, it looks like it hit the ground short of the runway, like the previous crash of a 777 (BA 34).

  • Another 777 landed short of the runway at Heathrow in 2008 after losing engine power because of ice in the fuel lines. I wonder if something similar happened here? The preliminary report that the aircraft "seemed unstable" could have been because the pilot was flying just above stall speed in a desperate attempt to maintain altitude in a power loss situation. That could also explain the tail damage; the aircraft would have been in an extremely nose-high attitude as the pilot attempted to maximize lift to av
  • Cabin Baggage? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CohibaVancouver (864662) on Saturday July 06, 2013 @05:49PM (#44205489)
    If I ever have to do an emergency evacuation and the guy in front of me has his cabin baggage with him (like we see in some of those pictures) I'm gonna throw it into the fire.
  • by Sir Holo (531007) on Saturday July 06, 2013 @06:45PM (#44205809)

    TFA: ...there was no indication of terrorism..."

    Why is this still included in any US media article about any aviation accident, or similar event, in the news?

    As an ordinary citizen, the question of terrorism is not anywhere near the top of my list of questions regarding "how" or "why" an accident may have occurred. Not at all. Now, the question of "who screwed up? Maintenance, pilot, management, etc.?" is the kind of question that springs to mind.

    Or, perhaps, maybe the problem is with me? Should I learn to be more afraid?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 06, 2013 @07:10PM (#44205899)

    and about 700 more shuttled to hospitals around the state. They also found nine other uncrashed planes in the vicinity.

To err is human -- to blame it on a computer is even more so.

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