Asiana 214 Crash: Pilot Says He Was Blinded by Light

Boeing 777 captain describes distraction.

Asiana Crash NTSB Front

Asiana Crash NTSB Front

** Courtesy of NTSB**

The National Transportation Safety Board on Wednesday revealed that the Asiana pilot at the controls of the Boeing 777 that crashed at San Francisco International Airport over the weekend has told investigators that he was temporarily blinded by a "bright light" on the approach while passing through 500 feet.

NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman said it wasn’t clear what could have caused the light and refused to speculate about its possible source when she was asked if a laser could be the culprit. It was also unclear why the pilots didn’t immediately execute a missed approach at that point. Hersman made her comments at a daily press briefing on the Asiana Flight 214 crash, which left two dead and 168 others injured.

Hersman also said the 777 began its approach slightly high but then descended too low while also straying laterally from the approach course. The pilots noted three red PAPI lights, and the pilot flying, identified by Asiana Airlines as Capt. Lee Gang Guk, raised the nose but left the power levers at idle. The training captain in the right seat, Lee Jeong-min, told investigstors he assumed the autothrotlle would maintain the selected approach airspeed of 137 knots, Hersman said.

Investigators on Monday said the 777-200ER was flying well below its target airspeed at the time of the crash. At 500 feet the airplane’s speed was 134 knots. The 777 slowed to a minimum airspeed of 103 knots moments before the jetliner crashed into a seawall well short of the runway. The NTSB is reviewing flight data recorder information to determine what happened during the approach and whether the crew's actions or cockpit automation played a role in the crash.

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