On July 6, 2013, Asiana Airlines Flight 214
crash landed at San Francisco International Airport. The flight had originated in Shanghai,
China, and stopped over in Seoul, South Korea. After the Boeing 777 missed
its approach and struck a sea wall, three passengers were killed and more
than 180 were injured.
Last week, the National Transportation Safety Board began its
investigative hearing of the Asiana Flight 214 crash. The first day’s hearing lasted 11
hours, with the NTSB focusing its attention on the plane’s electronic
systems and the pilot crew’s understanding of them. In his testimony,
the pilot stated that he was very worried about landing the plane after
finding out that an airport navigation system was out of order. He was
just learning how to pilot the 777 after spending most of his career flying
the Boeing 747. Without help from the glidescope indicator, the pilot
was unsure whether he was flying too high or too low during his approach.
Concerns about Pilots’ Reliance on Automated Systems
A recurring theme in the NTSB hearings is expected to be the growing reliance
of pilots on automated systems, particularly during takeoff and landing.
Aviation experts are concerned that, with the rise of these electronic
systems, pilots’ manual flying skills are eroding. In particular,
the crew believed that the plane’s autothrust was engaged, when
in fact it was not. This caused the plane to descend too rapidly at a
slower forward speed than was necessary.
The autothrust issue has led 83 victims to
file a lawsuit against Boeing and Asiana, alleging that the airplane manufacturer released a
defective product that was then utilized by the airline. The plaintiffs’ attorneys
claim that the autothrust system malfunctioned, indicating to the crew
that it was engaged when in fact it was not. One challenge for the plaintiffs
in this lawsuit will be proving causation. To be successful, they must
show that, but for the defective part, the crash would not have occurred.
This is particularly difficult in a situation like this where the part
in question burned up in the crash.
The Role of NTSB Investigative Hearings
The NTSB generally holds hearings within six months of a major transportation
accident. The hearings allow the NTSB to update the public on the progress
of its investigation. They also give the NTSB the chance to gather sworn
testimony from subpoenaed witnesses, related to issues that have been
identified as important during the course of the investigation. The hearings
in the Asiana crash began about five months after the accident.
Pursuing an Aviation Accident Claim
There are over 1,000 general aviation accidents in the United States each
year, with many of them leading to legal action against airlines and airplane
manufacturers. If you or a loved one has been injured or killed in an
aviation accident, you should contact a personal injury attorney immediately.
An attorney can review the facts of your case and determine whether you
have a viable claim. If so, they can help you seek the compensation you deserve.