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Asiana Airlines crash: Details point to short landing, possible pilot error

The NTSB and other agencies have begun investigating the crash of Asiana Airlines Flight 214 in San Francisco. Of the 307 passengers and crew, two were killed and 48 injured. Several dozen are unaccounted for, but many survived unhurt due to safety designs in the Boeing 777.

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A graphic depicting the precise glide slope the jet followed to the runway was posted on the live flight-tracking website FlightAware.com. It suggested the plane had a steeper approach angle than the same flight a day earlier, USA Today reported.

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Robert Herbst, a retired American Airlines 767 pilot and aviation industry consultant in South Carolina, told the Bay Area News Group that the damage he saw on television footage suggests a "no-brainer" explanation of the cause of the crash.

"This is very obvious what happened," said Mr. Herbst who flew commercial airlines for 41 years before retiring three years ago. "They landed short of the runway. They were too low for the flight path and the tail of the aircraft hit the sea wall."

The pilot of Asiana Airlines Flight 214 had not made any distress call before it crash-landed.

“For whatever reason, this appears to have caught the flight crew by surprise,” former National Transportation Safety Board senior investigator Greg Feith told MSNBC. “In a terrible situation, this appears to be as lucky as they could get.”

At a press conference in Washington several hours after the crash National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Deborah Hersman said NTSB teams on their way to San Francisco will investigate several areas: flight operations, human performance, survival factors, airport operations, and aircraft systems including airframe structure and engines.

Was pilot error a possible factor, Ms. Hersman was asked?

“It’s too early to tell,” she said. “We have determined what the focus of this investigation will be, but everything is on the table.”

Boeing, the FAA, Asiana Airlines, and other agencies and organizations will be involved in the investigation as well.

Officials (including the FBI) said there is no indication that terrorism was a factor. Weather does not seem to have been a factor either. Winds were clocked at 5-10 miles per hour, temperatures were in the mid-60s and skies were partly cloudy. Because of the good weather, all flights were landing visually, according to airport officials.

Asiana is a South Korean airline, second in size to national carrier Korean Air. The 777-200 is a long-range plane. The twin-engine aircraft is one of the world's most popular long-distance planes, often used for flights of 12 hours or more, from one continent to another.

San Francisco Airport closed for several hours after the crash before airport officials reopened two runways.

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