Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Did New Runway Configuration Cause the Crash of Asiana Flight 241?

The Boeing 777 has a proven safety record; until July 6, 2013 the triple 7 never caused a passenger death in it INSERT TIME years in service.  So what caused a marvel in technology to crash into the rocky shore of the San Francisco Bay? 

This is what we know:  The runway, 28L, had been under construction in the weeks leading up to the crash.  On June 26, 2013 I was personally on a Boeing 777, United flight 493 from Chicago to San Francisco where we landed on runway 28R.  What I love about United (the few things left I love about the airline) is that you can listen to the air traffic control traffic during the flight.  I especially enjoy listening during take off and landing.   We were single tracking into 28R and I could not figure out why on a beautiful day a plane was not simultaneously on approach for 28L.  My answer came when the 28L came into view: it was under construction and closed.  Large red X's illuminated the runway as the crews worked to lengthen the runway. This is confirmed by NOTAMS

The new runway plans moved the beginning of the runway further into the bay.  I don't have a handle on the length of the extension, but based on areal photographs I've seen, it appears to be a 100 to several hundred yards extension.  Perhaps the changes are to better handle the new larger aircraft, including the Airbus A380.

According to NTSB Chairman Debora Hersman, the instrument glide slope had been shut down since June 2013.  At the 7:30 pst press conference with Mayor Ed Lee, the SFO Airport spokesperson confirmed that 28L had been extended in the weeks before the crash. 

So, to sum up what we know, the pilot of Asiana Flight 241 from Seoul, Korea to San Francisco, California made a visual approach to runway 28L which had been recently reconfigured.  Despite a late thrust of the engines as described by many passengers, the tail of the Boeing 777 hit the rocks on the bank of the San Francisco Bay. 

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