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Plane crashes at San Fransisco airport

An Asiana Airlines passenger plane from Seoul, South Korea crashed at San Francisco International Airport, killing two people and sending more than 180 to the hospital.

The two killed were 16-year-old girls, who were students from China.

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From K.J. Kwon, CNN

Asiana Airlines said it is paying $10,000 to each of the passengers aboard Flight 214, which crashed in San Francisco last month.

“It is separate to medical compensation,” spokeswoman Lee Hyo-min told CNN on Monday. She said even those who were not injured can receive payment.

The spokeswoman added that passengers who collect the money “can still sue us.”

Three people were killed after the plane crashed short of the runway on July 6 at San Francisco International Airport.

The San Mateo County coroner said one of those killed, 16-year-old Ye Mengyuan of China, was flung out of the plane and survived. But she was struck and killed by a rescue vehicle.

San Francisco Fire Department Chief Joanne Hayes-White has apologized to Ye’s family.

“We’re heartbroken. We’re in the business of saving lives,” she said. “There’s not a lot of words to describe how badly we feel about it.”

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash, which also injured more than 180 people aboard the flight.

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A third person has died from injuries sustained in last week’s crash of Asiana Airlines Flight 214, a hospital spokeswoman said Friday.

San Francisco General spokeswoman Rachael Kagan identified the victim as a “minor girl,” without identifying her name, age or background. The girl has been in critical condition at the Bay Area hospital since last Saturday’s crash.

Two other people — both 16-year-old girls from China — were reported dead soon after the Boeing 777 crash landed at San Francisco Airport.

Efforts are continuing to determine why the giant jet came in too low and too slow before its main landing gear, then tail slammed into a seawall on the airport’s edge, then spun and burned before screeching to a stop.

Of the passengers and crew on board, 304 people survived — a handful of whom remain hospitalized with injuries.

The runway where Flight 214 crashed should reopen Sunday, San Francisco’s airport director said late Thursday.

Repairs to the runway were set to begin Friday after the aircraft is removed, according to John Martin.

An in-depth review of the cockpit voice recorder shows two pilots called for the landing to be aborted before the plane hit a seawall and crashed onto the runway, the head of the National Transportation Safety Board said Thursday.

The first internal call by one of the three pilots in the cockpit to abort the landing came three seconds before the crash and a second was made by another pilot 1.5 seconds before impact, NTSB chief Deborah Hersman said.

The agency has begun wrapping up its investigation at the airport and crews are cleaning up the debris left by the crash. Investigators turned the runway back over to the airport. The runway has been closed since Saturday’s crash.

The investigation is slowly shifting back to NTSB headquarters in Washington, where authorities will work to find a more definitive answer about what led to the crash.

The passenger jet’s main landing gear slammed into the seawall between the airport and San Francisco Bay, spinning the aircraft 360 degrees as it broke into pieces and eventually caught fire.
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The pilot at the helm of Asiana Airlines Flight 214 was training to fly a Boeing 777 and was sitting next to a man in his first trip as an instructor pilot when their plane’s main landing gear hit a seawall around San Francisco’s airport, a U.S. official said Tuesday.

Deborah Hersman, the head of the National Transportation Safety Board, gave new details about the pilots and their experience over the years and on that fateful day, based on the interviews they’ve conducted with investigators over the past two days.

The “flying pilot” — as Hersman referred to him — is a veteran with nearly 10,000 hours of total flying time, though he was in his “initial operating experience” in flying a Boeing 777 like the one that crashed Saturday.

He had flown 10 legs and had about 35 hours of flying time with the 777, which put him about halfway through the required training of 20 legs and 60 flight hours, when the plane went down, Hersman said.

When that happened, sitting beside him was the instructor pilot. Saturday’s flight to northern California was the first time he had traveled with the flying pilot and the first time he had been an instructor pilot, according to Hersman.

These two were among four pilots — three of whom were in the cockpit at the time of the crash, while one was in the cabin — whom authorities interviewed Monday and Tuesday, Hersman told reporters. None of them underwent drug or alcohol testing after the crash, the NTSB chief explained, because the United States does not have “oversight” of foreign-based operators or their crews. Asiana is based in South Korea.

Investigators hope these interviews, and others, will shed light on why the giant jet crash-landed.

“All of the crew members have been very cooperative and very forthright with our team,” Hersman said.

Two of the 307 passengers and crew aboard Saturday’s flight died on an otherwise normal day in northern California, after the rear of their plane struck the edge of the runway, severing the tail, sparking a fireball and sending the giant jet spinning until it finally stopped.

Authorities transported 182 others to local hospitals.

Some of them were still hospitalized Tuesday, including four adults and one child in critical condition at San Francisco General Hospital who were suffering from internal bleeding, fractures and spinal cord, abdominal and traumatic brain injuries, according to the hospital.

But despite the scale of the crash — which scattered wreckage from a seawall to the main wreckage site hundreds of feet up the runway, according to Hersman — most aboard were able to walk away.

That includes 123 who never required hospitalization. Most who did require it ended up in local medical facilities. San Francisco General, for instance, by late Tuesday morning had discharged 50 of the 62 patients it had seen.

Two of those injured are flight attendants who, Hersman explained, were not in their seats at the rear of the aircraft when the plane finally ground to a halt.

The reason? They were “ejected” as the aircraft broke up.

“They were found down the runway and off to the side of the runway,” Hersman said, adding that both survived but suffered unspecified injuries.

Union criticizes NTSB for releasing too much information

The question investigators are focusing on is why anyone was killed or hurt in the first place.

While Asiana’s chief executive officer, Yoon Young-doo arrived in the United States early Tuesday afternoon to see the crash scene for himself, Hersman has taken the lead in the U.S. investigation. She said Tuesday that initial crew interviews and reviews of flight data records don’t appear to show any problems with the plane or its components before the crash.

The air traffic control team found no evidence on voice communications of any distress calls before the accident, Hersman said. And investigators have found the flight’s pilots had the appropriate charts for the airport and approach in place in the cockpit, she added.

Both engines were producing power at the time, according to a preliminary review. Hersman added that an early look at FAA radar data indicates that there was “no abnormally steep descent curve that’s been detected” in the landing approach of the jet, she said, reacting to reports citing a steeper descent.

While some have speculated pilot error was to blame, Herman has publicly, and repeatedly, rejected such assertions and urged all to be patient.

“I think it really is too early to conclude pilot error because there’s so much that we don’t know,” she said. “We have to understand what these pilots knew. We also need to look at how they were flying the airplane.”

In a briefing Monday, Hersman told reporters the plane was flying too slowly as it approached the runway. Specifically, the jet was going 118 knots (136 mph) as it approached the runway and as low as 103 knots (118 mph) seconds before the crash — slower than the 137 knots (157 mph) it should have been going, a difference that’s spurred some analysts to conclude pilot error was to blame.

Given its speed, onboard systems warned the crew that the plane was about to stall four seconds before the crash, Hersman said.

Typically, such a warning would prompt a pilot to lower the plane’s nose and increase power, but the plane was too close to the ground to take such action. One-and-a-half seconds before impact, the crew called for a “go-around,” meaning they wanted to abort the landing and go around in the air to try to make another landing, according to Hersman.

On Tuesday, Hersman elaborated on the plane’s speed and the pilots role in tracking it.

“One of the very critical things that needs to be monitored on landing is speed,” Hersman said.

The Air Line Pilots Association, for a second straight day on Tuesday, criticized what it called the “NTSB’s release of incomplete, out-of-context information” that “has fueled rampant speculation about the cause of the accident.” It questioned whether some tools were available to the crew, claiming, for instance, that the “Instrument Landing System, a critical aid to pilots, (was) out of service.”

“Without the full body of facts surrounding a catastrophic event, partial or incomplete information can lead to erroneous conclusions and, in turn, skew the perception of individuals’ behavior,” the pilots union said in its Tuesday statement. “This could then lead to misguided assessments of the crew’s intentions and actions.”

Hersman disputed the union’s claims Tuesday on CNN, saying the agency believes that transparent release of information is crucial.

“We believe that it is always better to put out the correct information and factual information so that bad information is not able to propagate,” she said.
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A local university is teaching its flight students how to quickly respond to life-threatening situations in the air.

On a flight simulator at Lewis University in Romeoville, flight trainers and their students see the same sort of scenario witnessed Saturday in San Francisco; a plane crash-landing just short of the runway.
Dr. Randy Demit has flown 777′s during a long career as a commercial pilot. And he too wonders what went wrong Saturday, given all the warning systems in a 777 cockpit.

“There’s cockpit warnings when you’re approaching too low,” he said.  “There’s warnings when you’re out of the correct glide path.  All of this gives situational awareness with warnings to the pilot.”

Demit says with all the technology in today’s airplanes, pilots have to process information quickly.

“Pilots are not just the pilots of their aircraft.  They’re also having to manage the systems with information coming into the cockpit,” he said.

Veteran aviation instructors say its too soon to speculate on a cause to Saturday’s crash.  But they say with a large aircraft like the 777, there are half a dozen possible causes.

By Tom Watkins, Michael Pearson. and Mike M. Ahlers , CNN Plane crash victim may have been struck by emergency vehicle

Asiana Airlines Flight 214 was flying far slower than recommended as it approached San Francisco International Airport just before its crash landing on Saturday, the head of the National Transportation Safety Board said Monday.

The Boeing 777 was traveling at approximately 106 knots (122 mph) upon impact and at about 118 knots (136 mph) 16 seconds before impact at an altitude of about 200 feet; the recommended speed upon approach to the runway threshold is 137 knots (157 mph), Deborah Hersman told reporters.

The onboard systems warned the crew the plane was about to stall four seconds before the crash, she said.

That warning comes in the form of a “stick-shaker,” said Arthur Rosenberg, a pilot, engineer and partner with the New York-based law firm Soberman & Rosenberg, which specializes in litigation stemming from plane crashes. “It’s basically saying, ‘Hey idiot, wake up and do something … Now!”

That something typically is to lower the nose of the plane and apply power, he said.

The plane was already close to the ground and couldn’t be lowered much further. But the crew apparently boosted the power to the engines, which were increasing from 50% capacity three seconds before impact, according to Hersman.

One-and-a-half seconds before impact, the crew called for a “go-around,” meaning that they wanted to abort the landing and go around in the air to try to make another landing, she said.

But they didn’t make it. “There just wasn’t enough room to recover,” Rosenberg said.

Investigators have found a path of wreckage that started at the seawall and continued to the main wreckage site hundreds of feet up the runway, Hersman added.

The pavement itself was scarred from contact with the landing gear, the engines and the fuselage, Hersman said.

The tail’s lower portion was in the rocks at the seawall and “a significant piece of the tail” was in the water, she said. Additional aircraft parts were visible at low tide. On the path that leads along the pavement away from the seawall were horizontal stabilizers, a vertical stabilizer and an upper portion of the tail cone, she said.

The air-traffic control team found no evidence on voice communications of any distress calls before the accident, she said.

But investigators have found that the pilots had the appropriate charts for the airport and approach in place in the cockpit, she added. The NTSB was working to find out what the four pilots had done during the 72 hours before the crash in an attempt to determine whether fatigue or sickness may have played a role, she said.

A preliminary review of FAA radar data indicates that there was “no abnormally steep descent curve that’s been detected” in the landing approach of the jet, she said, reacting to media reports citing a steeper descent.

And a preliminary review of the engines indicates that both engines were producing power when the plane crashed, she said.

Investigators were focusing on the crew and aircraft as they try to learn why the giant jet clipped the end of runway before crashing, she had said earlier in the day.

“We’re certainly looking at the crew and how they operated, how they were trained, at their experience,” Hersman told CNN’s New Day.

“We’re also looking at the aircraft. We’re looking to see if the crew was using automation or was flying on autopilot, or they were hand-flying the airplane,” she said.

Boeing 777s can land automatically, but it was unclear if the plane’s computer was handling Saturday’s attempted landing or if it was being done by the pilot, who Asiana said was making his first San Francisco landing at the controls of that model of aircraft.

The flight, with 307 people on board, originated in Shanghai, China, and stopped in Seoul, South Korea. It was preparing to land Saturday in San Francisco when the rear of the plane struck the edge of the runway, severing the tail. Most passengers were able to escape before the plane erupted in smoke and flames.

The fatalities, teenagers Ye Mengyuan and Wang Linjia, were among 35 Chinese students headed to California to attend West Valley Christian School’s summer church camp, the school said on its website.

Both of the girls had been seated in the rear of the plane, which suffered significant structural damage, Hersman said.

Investigators said they were looking into reports that one of the girls may have been run over by an emergency vehicle. “We are still looking at this issue,” she said. “The coroner has not yet determined the cause of death and so we want to make sure we have all the facts before we reach any conclusions.”

Pilot’s flight record

Lee Kang-kuk, the pilot who was in the captain’s seat of Flight 214, had flown from Seoul to San Francisco several times between 1999 and 2004, the airline said.

But Saturday marked his first time landing a Boeing 777 at San Francisco International Airport and was the ninth time he had flown the model, with 43 hours at the controls, the airline said. He has about 10,000 hours as a pilot, Asiana said.

Hersman, who has discouraged speculation about whether the crew bore responsibility for the crash, downplayed the significance of the pilot’s experience in her New Day interview.

“It’s not unusual for crew to change aircraft types,” she said. And with air crews flying all around the world, it’s not unusual for pilots to fly into unfamiliar airports for the first time either.

She said it’s important for the two pilots in charge of the aircraft during the “very risky” landing phase to work closely together, and while she said investigators have no evidence of cockpit communications problems, it’s something investigators will be looking at.

Mary Schiavo, a former inspector general for the U.S. Department of Transportation, said video and other data related to the crash suggest the crew “lost situational awareness” while approaching the airport.

“They’re low and slow, and that’s a problem,” Schiavo said.

All four pilots have been interviewed by NTSB and South Korean investigators, said Choi Jeong-ho, the head of South Korea’s Aviation Policy Bureau.

“We cannot reveal what’s been said as it is an ongoing investigation,” Choi said.

The pilots represented two teams — a crew and a relief crew, said Hersman.

“I think it really is too early to conclude pilot error, because there is so much that we don’t know,” she told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.

The cockpit voice recorder — which has been flown to Washington for analysis — contains conversations between the pilots that were carried out in a combination of English and Korean, she said.

Hersman said that in most airplane crashes, investigators rarely find a single explanation for what went wrong.

“In most of our investigations, we find that it’s not just one thing, it really is a combination of factors that lead to an accident,” she said.

While weather has been ruled out as a factor, other factors officials are investigating include whether construction at the airport may have played a role, Hersman said Sunday.

Work to extend a runway safety area required the temporary shutdown of a system designed to help pilots land planes safely, she said.

Clues from voice recorder

The pilots apparently tried to speed up seven seconds before the crash, cockpit voice and flight data recorders showed.

A stall warning sounded three seconds later, telling the pilots the plane was about to lose its ability to stay in the air.

Then — just 1.5 seconds before the plane slammed into the runway — the crew decided to call off the landing and try to pull up for another try, Hersman said.

It was too late.

The frightening crash

With no warning from the cockpit, survivors said, the plane’s rear struck the sea wall at the end of the runway. The impact severed the plane’s tail and sent the rest of the body spinning on its belly.

Amateur video obtained exclusively by CNN shows the plane crashing and spinning counterclockwise and coming to a stop.

In addition to the two deaths, 182 people were hospitalized with injuries ranging from severe scrapes to paralysis.

“We’re lucky there hasn’t been a greater loss of life,” San Francisco Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White said.

Some injured passengers remained hospitalized Monday, including six in critical condition at San Francisco General Hospital, said Dr. Margaret Knudson, the hospital’s chief of surgery.

About half of those admitted to the hospital had spinal fractures, she said. Others have head trauma.

“Their recovery could be months and months and maybe not even to full recovery,” she said.

Many of the injured said they were sitting toward the rear of the aircraft, Knudson said.

But 123 of the 307 people on board walked away uninjured. Benjamin Levy was among them.

“Honestly, I was waiting for the plane to … start flipping upside down, in which case I think a lot of people would have not made it,” Levy said.

“If we flipped, none of us would be here to talk about it,” he said.

CNN’s Michael Pearson and Tom Watkins reported and wrote from Atlanta; Mike Ahlers reported from San Francisco; CNN’s Chelsea J. Carter, Dan Simon, Dana Ford, Thom Patterson and Aaron Cooper contributed to this report.

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In the wake of this weekend’s deadly plane crash, many travelers wonder if there’s any way to survive a crash.
Pilot Chip Shanle Jr helped crash a jet, so scientists could answer that question.
He joined the WGN Evening News to talk about it.

The pilot at the helm of the Asiana Airlines flight that crashed in San Francisco had no experience landing a Boeing 777 at that airport. And one of the two teens who died after the crash may have been run over by a first responder’s vehicle.

The revelations are the latest in a flurry of developments from the crash at San Francisco International Airport that killed two 16 year-old girls from China and sent 182 people to the hospital Saturday.

The flight, with 307 people on board, originated in Shanghai, China, and stopped in Seoul, South Korea. It was preparing to land in San Francisco when the rear of the plane struck the edge of the runway, severing the tail and causing the plane to erupt in smoke and flames.

Questions surround tragedy

The San Francisco Fire Department said one of the girls killed may have been struck by an emergency vehicle, San Mateo County Coroner Robert Foucrault said.

“Part of our examination is to determine the cause of death. Our examination will determine whether it was from the airplane crash or secondary incident,” Foucrault said.

Ye Mengyuan and Wang Linjia were among 35 Chinese students headed to California to attend West Valley Christian School’s summer church camp, the school said on its website.

The two girls had signed up for the $5,000 summer program aimed to improve students’ English.

The National Transportation Safety Board is also looking into reports that one of the girls may have been run over by an emergency vehicle.

“We are aware of the reports but don’t have any details yet,” NTSB spokeswoman Kelly Nantel said. “Our investigators will be looking very closely at this issue … We are looking to determine if there are lessons to be learned from this accident.”

The San Francisco Fire Department has not responded to CNN’s request for comment.

Pilot’s flight record

The pilot who was landing Asiana Airlines Flight 214 was making his first descent with a Boeing 777 at the San Francisco airport, the airline said.

But it wasn’t his first time flying to San Francisco nor his first time in control of a 777.

Lee Kang-kuk, the pilot who was in the captain’s seat, had flown from Seoul to San Francisco several times between 1999 and 2004, the airline said.

Including the flight Saturday, Lee flew a Boeing 777 nine times, clocking a total of 43 hours on that model of aircraft, Asiana said. He has piloted a total of about 10,000 hours, the airline said.

Lee was one of four pilots on board who were working in shifts Saturday. All four pilots have been interviewed by NTSB and South Korean investigators, said Choi Jeong-ho, the head of South Korean’s Aviation Policy Bureau.

“We cannot reveal what’s been said as it is an on-going investigation,” Choi said.

Clues from the voice recorder

The cockpit voice and flight data recorders showed the flight was coming in too slow and too low and that the pilots apparently sped up seven seconds before impact, the National Transportation Safety Board said Sunday.

Four seconds before impact, a stall warning sounded — warning the pilots the plane was about to lose its ability to stay in the air.

The voice recorder apparently showed the pilots tried to abort the landing less than two seconds before the plane crashed, NTSB head Deborah Hersman said.

The crew then made an internal decision “to initiate a go-around 1.5 seconds to impact,” she said.

When asked if pilot error was to blame, Hersman said the crash landing was still under investigation.

“I would discourage anyone from drawing any conclusions at this point,” she said.

The NTSB has ruled out weather as a problem and said that conditions were right for a “visual landing.”

Officials are investigating whether construction at the airport may have played a role.

Construction to extend a runway safety area temporarily shut off the so-called glide slope system, which is one of several options pilots have to help them land planes safely, Hersman said.

The frightening crash

With no warning from the cockpit, survivors said, the plane’s rear struck the sea wall at the end of the runway. The impact severed the plane’s tail and sent the rest of the body spinning on its belly.

When rescuers arrived, they found some passengers coming out of the water, said city fire chief Joanne Hayes-White.

“There was a fire on the plane, so the assumption might be that they went near the water’s edge, which is very shallow, to maybe douse themselves with water,” she said.

Amateur video obtained exclusively by CNN shows the plane crashing and spinning counterclockwise and coming to a stop. Fred Hayes said he shot the video about a mile from the crash scene.

In all, 182 people were hospitalized. Their injuries ranged from severe road rash to paralysis.

‘We’re lucky’

The crash, followed by flames and clouds of smoke spewing from the gaping roof, left many fearing the worst.

But 123 of the 307 people on board walked away uninjured.

“We’re lucky there hasn’t been a greater loss of life,” the fire chief said.

Medical personnel were also expecting more casualties.

“We were expecting a lot of burns, but we didn’t see them,” said Dr. Margaret Knudson, San Francisco General Hospital’s chief of surgery. Six survivors were in critical condition at the hospital Sunday.

Many of the injured said they were sitting toward the rear of the aircraft, said Knudson. Several suffered abdominal injuries and spine fractures, some of which include paralysis and head trauma, she said.

Passenger Benjamin Levy said he was bracing for more trauma but ended up walking away from the wreck.

“Honestly, I was waiting for the plane to … start flipping upside down, in which case I think a lot of people would have not made it,” Levy said.

“If we flipped, none of us would be here to talk about it.”
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A day after a deadly plane crash in California, passengers at Chicago’s O’Hare airport moved forward with their travel plans.

The Asiana Airlines flight was arriving into San Francisco from Seoul when it crash landed.  2 people were killed.  182 others were hospitalized and 123 others walked away.

WGN’s Andrea Darlas spoke with travelers at O’Hare who were on  their way to Seoul Sunday.

The cockpit voice recorder of Asiana Airlines Flight 214 appears to show the pilots tried to abort the landing less than two seconds before the plane crashed on the runway at San Francisco International Airport, the head of the National Transportation Safety Board said Sunday.

The plane’s voice and flight data recorders show that the flight from South Korea was coming in too slow and too low and that the pilots appear to have increased speed seven seconds before impact, Deborah Hersman said. A stall warning sounded four seconds before the crash, and the crew then made an internal decision “to initiate a go-around 1.5 seconds to impact,” she said.

The NTSB’s preliminary assessment of the plane’s cockpit and flight data recorders appear to indicate that the flight went from a routine landing to a disaster in a matter of seconds. But when asked if pilot error was to blame, Hersman said the crash landing was still under investigation.

“I would discourage anyone from drawing any conclusions at this point,” she said, adding that investigators are still working to corroborate the information on the recorders.

But what happened inside the cockpit of the Boeing 777 may well be the key factor in Saturday’s accident that killed two people, injured 182 and forced the temporary closure of one of the country’s largest airports.

Amateur video obtained exclusively by CNN on Sunday shows the plane approaching the runway and striking what appears to be a seawall before spinning counterclockwise and coming to a stop. Fred Hayes said he shot the video about a mile from the crash scene.

Some of the answers to what happened may just hinge on what investigators found on the voice and flight data recorders.

“What we need to do is corroborate the information we have both on the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder,” Hersman said.

“…But I’ll tell you some of the things we are seeing on the flight data recorder are mirroring some of the things that are going on on the cockpit voice recorder.”

For example, she said, the increase of power in the engines appears to correlate with the cockpit crew’s internal decision to do a “go-around,” a call to abort the landing and try it again.

Asiana Flight 214, with 291 passengers and 16 crew members, was at the end of a more than 10-hour direct flight from Seoul, South Korea, when it began its descent.

According to the recorders, the flight’s approach appeared normal as the 777 descended, and “there is no discussion of aircraft approach” among the crew.

The target air speed for the approach of the flight was 137 knots, and the crew can be heard on the cockpit voice recorder acknowledging the speed, Hersman said.

But the speed was significantly below 137 knots, and “we are not talking about a few knots,” she said.

At about four seconds before the plane crash landed, the pilots received an “aural and physical” warning inside the cockpit that the plane was on the verge of an aerodynamic stall, meaning it was about to lose its ability to stay in the air.

The warning — known as a “stick shaker” — included a verbal warning the plane that was flying too low and a physical warning when the throttle shook.

South Korean and NTSB investigators will jointly question Lee Kang-gook, the pilot who was sitting in the captain’s seat of Asiana Flight 214, on Monday, Choi Jeong-ho, the head of South Korean’s Aviation Policy Bureau, said.

Lee had 43 hours of experience flying the B777-200, he said.

They will also question Lee Jeong-min, who was sitting in the co-pilot’s seat, Choi said.

Asiana CEO and President Yoon Young-doo has said there was no engine failure, to his knowledge. South Korean investigators will work alongside U.S. investigators.

The NTSB has ruled out weather as a problem and said that conditions were right for a “visual landing.”

But investigators are looking into whether construction at the airport may have played a role.

Construction to extend a runway safety area temporarily shut off the so-called glide slope system, which is one of several options pilots have to help them land planes safely, Hersman said.

Internal damage to the plane is “really striking,” she said, and officials are thankful there weren’t more deaths.

Survivors of the crash were being treated Sunday for injuries ranging from paralysis to “severe road rash.”

In all, 182 people were hospitalized and 123 others walked away from the crash landing. The number who emerged unscathed prompted the city’s fire chief to describe it as “nothing short of a miracle.”

On the runway, medics found the bodies of the two teen girls lying next to burning wreckage. They were identified by Asiana Airlines as Ye Mengyuan and Wang Linjia, both Chinese nationals.

“We were expecting a lot of burns,” said Dr. Margaret Knudson, San Francisco General Hospital’s chief of surgery. “But we didn’t see them.”

At San Francisco General, 17 survivors remained hospitalized, six of them in critical condition.

Many of the injured said they were sitting toward the rear of the aircraft, said Knudson. Several suffered abdominal injuries and spine fractures, some of which include paralysis and head trauma, she said.

Many patients also were treated for “severe road rash,” which suggests “that they were dragged,” Knudson said.

The conditions of victims at other hospitals were not made public Sunday.

Survivors and witnesses reported the 7-year-old airliner appeared to be flying too low as it approached the end of a runway near the bay.

Airport technology called the Instrument Landing System, or ILS — which normally would help pilots correctly approach the runway — was not operating at the time, according to a Federal Aviation Administration bulletin.

The ILS integrates with the aircraft’s cockpit to trigger an audible warning, consultant and retired 777 pilot Mark Weiss told CNN. “You hear a mechanical voice that says, ‘too low, too low, too low.’”

The ILS is “nice to have,” Weiss said, “but it’s not critical on the 777.” There are redundant systems aboard the aircraft that would provide similar warnings if the plane was coming in too low, said Weiss, who has landed 777s hundreds of times.

The pilot operating the aircraft was a veteran who had been flying for Asiana since 1996, the airline said.

Survivors reported hearing no warning from the cockpit before the landing.

Passengers scrambled to exit a crash scene that one survivor described as “surreal.”

When rescuers arrived, they found some passengers coming out of the water, said city fire chief Joanne Hayes-White.

“There was a fire on the plane, so the assumption might be that they went near the water’s edge, which is very shallow, to maybe douse themselves with water,” she said.

Some jumped out or slid down emergency chutes with luggage in hand.

Statistically, 2012 was the safest year in terms of aviation accidents worldwide since 1945, according to the Aviation Safety Network.

Data show that there were 23 fatal airliner accidents, which caused 511 deaths, according to ASN stats. That’s well below the 10-year annual average of 34 accidents and 773 fatalities.

Survival rates have improved due to better staff training and safety advances during the 1980s and 1990s, according to the group.
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Rowena Shaddox talks to witnesses of the crash at SFO today. It was a surreal even for most.

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