The pilot in charge of the Asiana Airlines jet that crash-landed at San Francisco International Airport Saturday was in his ninth training flight on the Boeing 777 and was 11 flights short of the worldwide standard to get licensed, company officials said.
Pilot Lee Kang-kook had 43 hours of flight experience on the Boeing 777 and Saturday was his first time landing at the airport with that kind of aircraft, Asiana Airlines spokeswoman Lee Hyo-min said today at a news conference in Seoul, South Korea.
"He is a veteran pilot with almost 10,000 hours on other aircrafts like the 747," she said. "He was in the process of getting a license for the new 777.
"He has flown the new 777 nine times before to Narita [in Tokyo], London, L.A., and more. But, yes, to San Francisco, with that specific 777 type, it was his first," she added.
Lee flew with an experienced Boeing 777 pilot mentor, in accordance with world standard, the spokeswoman said. Lee's trainer Saturday was Lee Jung-min, who has more than 3,000 hours flying the 777, and a total of 12,387 hours flying experience, according to the airline.
"The basic principles of flying a big jetliner are the same whether you're dealing with a 747 or a 777 or a 737 and among those are the ability to land on a runway in clear visual weather," ABC News aviation analyst John Nance said.
"This captain was fully licensed to be doing what he was doing. It wasn't a matter of he needed 10 flights and then he would get his license," Nance continued. "It's a matter of after 10 flights, all his restrictions as a new captain in a new airplane are removed."
During a televised news conference in Seoul, airline president Yoon Young-doo, defended the pilot's experience.
"Our pilots go through simulation training and complete their training process before flying to the airport. So I don't think that that problem (of the pilot being inexperienced) exists," he said.
San Mateo County Coroner Robert Foucrault told The Associated Press Sunday that he was investigating whether one of the two teenage passengers killed in Saturday's crash actually survived the crash but was run over by a rescue vehicle rushing to aid victims fleeing the burning aircraft.
Wang Linjia and Ye Mengyuan, both 16, were female students from China, according to Chinese media reports.
San Francisco Asst. Deputy Fire Chief Dale Carnes confirmed to ABC News that the incident is under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board and the San Francisco Police Department.
"Literally, until we get all of the facts from the investigation, anything I might offer would just be conjecture. I don't want to give any misinformation out on that," Carnes told ABC News.
Asiana Airlines Flight 214 was carrying 291 passengers and 16 crew members when it crashed Saturday at San Francisco International Airport. The tail was torn off as it crashed, and it burst into flames.
The crash of the Boeing 777 resulted in two deaths 181 injured people. Forty-nine patients are at area hospitals after surviving the crash. Eight patients remained in critical condition.
ABC News has learned that there were a few remaining passengers on board as the first of the fires broke out.
"There were still a handful of victims and I can't give you an exact number, but somewhere in the area of three to five that were still in their seats that required assistance," he said.
By the time the flames were out, much of the top of the fuselage had burned away. The tail section was gone, with pieces of it scattered across the beginning of the runway.
The flight's black boxes have been recovered and revealed the frantic moments seconds before the impact. Data on the black boxes showed that the pilots learned the plane was about to stall and tried to abort the landing seconds before it crashed on the runway, NTSB Chairwoman Deborah Hersman said Sunday.
Crash survivor Ben Levy told ABC News that it felt like the pilot was trying to suddenly take off again during the landing.
"As we are approaching touchdown the guy put full throttle on the engine to try and regain some altitude again because he probably realize he was too low and that was too late," Levy said. "The water started splashing everywhere and then we hit really hard."
Analysis of the plane's recovered black boxes revealed that the control yoke shook in the pilot's hand about four seconds before the plane crashed, NTSB chairwoman Hersman said. The pilots then attempted a "go-around" to abort the landing, less than two seconds before the plane hit the runway.
Hersman said one of the flight crew members called to increase the plane's speed seven seconds before impact, according to data the NTSB obtained from the cockpit voice recorder.
The Boeing 777 aircraft was traveling at a speed "significantly" below the target speed of 137 knots (about 157 mph), but Hersman would not indicate how much slower the plane was traveling.
The plane's engines appeared to respond normally, she said.
ABC News' Matt Hosford and Dean Schabner contributed to this report.
- Disasters & Accidents
- Asiana Airlines
- Boeing 777
- San Francisco