Asiana 214 Pilot Found Visual Approach 'Very Stressful'

NTSB hearing provides new details of July crash.

Asiana Crash NTSB Front

Asiana Crash NTSB Front

** Courtesy of NTSB**

The Asiana Airlines training captain who crashed a Boeing 777 at San Francisco International Airport in July was anxious about the visual approach, which he described as "very stressful," according to investigators.

Capt. Lee Kang Kuk, an eight-year employee of Asiana on his first extended trip flying the 777, also told investigators he was confused about the operation of the airplane's automation controls, according to a report released by the National Transportation Safety Board on Wednesday as the board held a hearing into the crash.

The 777's speed dropped dangerously low on the approach, made with assistance of the PAPI lights but without vertical guidance from the ILS glideslope, which was out of service at the time. Both Asiana 214 pilots said they were unsure about the automation mode with respect to the autothrottles, which should have been engaged on the approach. Instead, the autothrottles were set to idle, according to investigators.

The training captain stated it was "very difficult to perform a visual approach with a heavy airplane," according to the safety board summary of an interview with the pilot. Asked whether he was concerned about his ability to perform the visual approach, he said, "very concerned, yeah."

Three passengers, all Chinese teenagers, were killed and 181 people injured when Asiana 214 crashed tail first into a seawall short of the runway, broke apart and caught fire. One of the three was killed when she was run over by a fire department vehicle that was responding to the July 6 emergency, according to the coroner's office.

Lee was "very well experienced" and should have been able to perform the landing easily, Asiana's air operations safety division director told safety board members in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. He had no record of poor performance or disciplinary actions, but his instructor on a flight to Narita, Japan, two days before the crash told investigators he was "not sure if the trainee captain was making normal progress because the trainee captain did not perform well during the trip," according to the NTSB report. "He said that the trainee captain was not well-organized or prepared, that he conducted inadequate briefings, and that he deviated from multiple standard operating procedures."

The 777 was 34 knots too slow when it hit the seawall and careened across the airport. The NTSB on Wednesday also released new surveillance video footage of the crash.

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