SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — A major question in the National Transportation Safety Board’s investigation into Saturday’s crash of Asiana Airlines Flight 214 is why pilots didn’t seem to know that they were flying too low until just seconds before impact.
One factor being talked about is that San Francisco International Airport’s guide slope indicator – electronic technology pilots use to navigate the runway – was out of service due to airport construction.
But as NTSB chairwoman Deborah Hersman explained, “This was a visual approach. You can fly it visually. You do not need instruments to get into the airport. It was a clear day, and they were cleared for a visual approach.”
Eric Medina, an instructor at California Airways Flight School in Hayward, utilized a flight simulator to recreate for KPIX 5 what the landing looked like on SFO’s runway 28-L without using the glide slope.
“With your eyes you’ll be able to judge where you’re going to land, see, I’m able to judge here, where I’m going to land,” he said during the simulation.
As Medina also pointed out in the demonstration, all pilots landing at SFO still has a number of other options. For instance, onboard GPS, a tool known as “the locallizer” which helps align the plane with the runway, and PAPI – a precision approach path indicator in which colored lights indicate whether an approach is too high or low.
“We have to evaluate whether or not whether the pilots used, or had available to them, other tools in the aircraft, or outside of the aircraft, that were on the airport property – and how they were flying the approach, whether they were using automation, whether they were hand flying,” Hersman noted.
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