“Hello, hello,” the pilot’s voice crackles over the radio moments after Asiana Airlines Flight 214 went down at San Francisco International on Saturday.
“I have trouble.”
The sequence of radio transmissions from the airport’s tower — which sound strangely calm given the chaos unfolding onboard the shattered plane — capture the immediate response of air traffic controllers and pilots after the flight went down, ripping off the plane’s tail section and mangling the fuselage.
Sources who spoke with NBC News on Saturday said that no distress call was made from the plane before landing.
“214 heavy, emergency vehicles are responding. Emergency vehicles are responding,” comes the response.
“Okay, I cannot...” the pilot starts to say, before his voice becomes incomprehensible.
Immediately, a message went out to other planes requesting that they keep clear of the San Francisco airport’s airspace, as responders sped toward the plane that witnesses said careened across the runway before coming to a stop and catching on fire.
On Sunday, Asiana Airlines announced that the two people killed in the crash were Chinese teenagers Ye Mengyuan and Wang Linjia. More than 180 people were injured in the crash. But in the immediate aftermath, no one knew how many of the 291 passengers and 16 crew members on board the crash had survived.
“Remain clear of the San Francisco air space, contact San Carlos tower,” the tower recordings from liveatc.net show.
“All runways are closed, airport is closed.”
About a minute after the pilot of the downed plane radioed the tower, another message went out to whoever might be listening in the crippled cockpit to let them know help was coming.
“Asiana 214 heavy, emergency vehicles are responding, we have everyone on their way.”
For the next several minutes, rescue units radio in their positions as they approach the Asiana flight.
“Everybody calm on ground. It’s going to be a while. Just hold your position and do not acknowledge,” comes another transmission after nearly a minute of silence.
Then, another fifty seconds later, a new voice comes across the air, reporting a sign of hope out on the runway strewn with debris.
“Yes, this is United 885. We see people and I think we should – they need immediate attention. They’re alive and they’re walking around.”
“You said, you said people are just walking outside the airplane right now?” came the controller’s response.
“Yes, some people look like they’re struggling,” the pilot said.
Seconds later, it was clear to people on the ground that passengers had indeed climbed out of the crash that eyewitnesses said they initially thought could not possible have any survivors.
“Between the runways there are people right adjacent to the numbers. I can – we can see about two or three people that are moving and, uh, and apparently survived.”
“Roger,” the controller responds.
First published July 7 2013, 1:13 PM