Dramatic new video shows the horrifying crash of an Asiana Airlines Boeing 777 that rammed into a seawall and cartwheeled down the runway last summer at the San Francisco airport.
The National Transportation Safety Board released the video, retrieved from a security camera at the airport, during a hearing Wednesday on the July 6 crash, which killed three people and injured more than 200 others.
The 27-second video shows Asiana Flight 214 descending with its tail too low. It can then be seen hitting the seawall and slamming into the ground before somersaulting to a smoky rest.
One of the three victims died after having been run over by a fire truck on the runway. Documents introduced at the hearing showed that she was actually run over twice — first by a fire rig spraying foam and then by a water truck.
In a carefully worded statement Wednesday, San Francisco International Airport said it wouldn't comment on the investigation "out of respect for the NTSB's process," but it said it was "proud of the efforts on July 6 by airport and San Francisco Fire Department personnel, and from the mutual aid organizations that rapidly mobilized to assist us."
"We have carefully reviewed our performance with the goal of learning from this event," the airport said.
The NTSB also reported that the pilot, Lee Kang Kuk, 46, was asked several times by the FBI whether the crash was a terrorist incident. The answer, according to the investigation, is no — instead, he was simply nervous about landing the jumbo jet for the first time at the San Francisco airport.
Lee told investigators that he was "very concerned" about trying a visual landing without the runway's automated guide slope instrumental aids, which were out of commission because of construction.
"He said it was very stressful, very difficult to perform a visual approach with a heavy airplane, always," the NTSB said. "From the planning phase it was very stressful because the glide slope was very, very helpful to making an approach."
Lee said there was no one overriding technical factor — every part of the landing "was stressful, because it was very busy and the controllers were very busy and spoke quickly."
Investigators said Lee — who was being trained by a more experienced 777 pilot — also felt pressure not to tell his training pilot that he wanted to abort the landing because Korean culture wouldn't have allowed him to speak up, even though he was warned that he was descending too sharply and at too low a speed.
"The instructor pilot got the authority," the report quoted Lee as saying in broken English. "Even (if) I am on the left (captain's) seat, that is very hard to explain, that is our culture."
The bottom line, he said, was that he said he was worried that he might "fail his flight and would be embarrassed," according to the report. So he decided to go through with the landing as alarms sounded around him.
Both pilots tried to rev up the speed at the last moment, but they failed.
"About 11 seconds prior to impact, an audible alert consistent with the low airspeed caution was recorded," Bill English, the investigator in charge of the NTSB inquiry, said at the hearing. "But the action was too late, and the main gear of the underside of the aft fuselage struck the seawall."
"The lowest recorded airspeed was 103 knots, which was 34 knots below the desired airspeed of 137 knots," English said.
NTSB Chairwoman Deborah Hersman told reporters it appeared there was "an issue in aviation" with cockpit automation and relying on autopilots to fly planes, but she said the agency didn't immediately plan to issue any recommendations from the hearing.
It can still issue new recommendations at any point during the investigation, which could take more than a year to complete.
Katie Wall of NBC News contributed to this report.
First published December 11 2013, 7:53 PM