Weekends With Alex Witt
updated 7/8/2013 2:19:00 PM ET 2013-07-08T18:19:00

Former American Airlines Pilot Jay Rollins reacts to the Boeing 777 flight that crash landed at San Francisco International Airport on Saturday.

A team from the National Transportation Safety Board is investigating a Boeing 777 crash at San Francisco International Airport on Saturday.

Former American Airlines Pilot Jay Rollins walked MSNBC’s Alex Witt through that the logistics of how a pilot typically maneuvers a plane approaching landing.

San Francisco’s International airport, like New York’s LaGuardia and LAX in Los Angeles, is surrounded by water. Rollins explained that “water makes the approach more stable” due to the constant temperature from water as opposed to being surrounded by concrete.

Rollins details what he believes might have gone wrong based on the information released thus far. Watch the clip above. 

Video: Aviation analyst on the safety of the Boeing 777

  1. Closed captioning of: Aviation analyst on the safety of the Boeing 777

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    >>> we have new news to share with the air crash .

    >> you see some smoke coming out, but the fire happened much later. i couldn't see any fire in the back of the plane, and by the time i went out for the phones, i saw more smoke. the beginnings of it and the firemen were already on the spot.

    >> the team for the national transportation safety board is already on the scene. we're getting more images from the crash scene. right now there are two confirmed fatalities, several taken to the hospital. at last count about four dozen remain in the hospital. joining me from boston, paul mccarthy . let's take what the president said in a presser this morning they think there is no engine defect. first up is it too early to say that definitively, but overall how safe is the 777 boeing .

    >> let's go to the pressing question. that aircraft has a fabulous safety record. i flew the thing myself and it is a spectacular engineering achievement. it's a very safe aircraft. i think about the track record of how many there are, how often they fly, and nothing really happens ever with the 777. it's a remarkable safe aircraft. going back to engines, these planes tend to record the condition in flight. so the minute tense may have had preliminary information. you're exact. until they look at the recorders and the actual engines themselves, we're not going to know the story.

    >> paul, interesting there were no distress calls put forward. what does that tell me?

    >> we're taught in the aviation business, aviate, fly the airplane, navigate, figure out where you're going, and finally, communicate. the fact that there are no distress calls tells me something happened a thousand feet below the aprove.

    >> when you say a thousand feet on approach, how long are we talking from 1,000 feet and putting wheels on the ground?

    >> oh, 35, 40 seconds.

    >> when you're coming in fast like that, it's a heavy plane certainly, the fact that that's on an auto pilot or auto landing or the pilot is doing it themselves, can the plane be automatically landed without pilot intervention?

    >> it can but in that particular runway, that particular approach, on a day like that without any weather out there, it probably would not have been auto landed. the auto throttles would have been controlling the speed but i would anticipate the pilots would have been commanding the flight path .

    >> okay. let's say the pilot realizes, uh-oh, we are too low. what can one do in this 30, 35 seconds you're talking about? is there anything that can be successfully done to correct that? obviously in this case if they bachl aware of it it could be successful. but could you?

    >> oh, yeah. all you have to do is put the power up and have a change of trajectory. i believe there were witnesses inside the aircraft that just before the plane hit they did hear the engines accelerate. but it may have been too late.

    >> that's what they were trying to do. but what does that do, get it up enough to get it over the lip of the seawall or do you worry about actually starting to take off and lild lift off again? you can control, that right?

    >> the mayor correction given where this airplane ended up i would anticipate the airplane would have abandoned the approach and come back and try again.

    >> give us an idea of the fuel on the plane. you've flown all the way across the south pacific at this point. how much fuel is going to be left in the 777?

    >> quite a bit. probably -- that's a calculation i'm hesitant to make, but you eefrd have 20,000 pounds of fuel respectively.

    >> how much would it have taken off with?

    >> about 00,000 pounds of fuel.

    >> what is it like flying at san francisco international airport and what are the precautions take? we're going to hear from a former airline pilot ahead. with centurylink as your


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