Nightly News   |  July 08, 2013

Asiana plane flew dangerously slow prior to crash

Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board have spent a second day on the runway at San Francisco International Airport looking at the remains of Asiana flight 214. On Monday, the investigation focused on what was happening in the cockpit just before the crash. NBC's Tom Costello reports.

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>>> good evening. tonight in san francisco , investigators are narrowing in on what went wrong in the final ten seconds of a ten-hour flight across the pacific. while the death toll remains at two tonight, two teenage girls arriving in the u.s. for summer camp , it's also clear that a lot had to go right for some people to walk away from the crash and subsequent fire. we learned today in terms of forward air speed what it takes to keep a big jet in the sky. this one was barely creeping along as it just barely made the end of the runway, clipping the tail on the rock seawall, the investigation zeros in on what went right at that moment. our coverage begins tonight with tom costello at sfo tonight. tom, good evening.

>> reporter: hi, brian. good evening to you. behind me, that is asiana flight 14, sitting out at runway 28 left with traffic around it three captains on board this plane and a first officer. one captain at the controls, brands new to the 777. 10,000 hours of flying experience and only 43 hours on a 777. first landing attempt at sfo, with a captain checking him out. that's all standard. the question? what went wrong? emergency chutes deploying on this new video taken just after the crash of flight 214 . passengers running away from the aircraft as firefighters pour foam on the fire. after ripping off its tail on the seawall, the 777 jumps into the air and flips over before slamming into the ground.

>> i thought before i left the plane it might blow up and i might die.

>> reporter: we got a photo from the teenagers from china killed in the accident. they are wondering if one of them may have been hit by an arriving fire engine . ntsb have been walking the length of the runway inspecting debris. the landing gear , sheared from the fuse lage. the interior of the plane. oxygen masks hanging, seats twisted and broken.

>> the lower portion of the tail is in the rocks of the seawall and a significant peace of the tail of this aircraft in the water.

>> we learned today the pilot, new to flying 777, and the training pilot, let it fall well below the 137 knot speed needed for landing.

>> there was a lack of interaction between the two pilots. the pilot manipulating the flight control and the one that was monitoring.

>> reporter: there wasn't any system warnings of a stall until 4 seconds before the crash. they will interview the crew in english and korean. what would happen in the final seconds of flight. both pilots were senior, did each assume the other was monitoring speed and altitude? aviation analyst, john cox .

>> what was the demeanor of the interworkings of the crew? how effective as a team? those are questions we need to have answers.

>> reporter: investigators will analyze in the 72 hours before the crash? what were the pilots doing? how much sleep were they getting. how much time were they on duty? all of that will play into analyzing exactly what happened with this accident? pilot error to blame or something else? brian?

>> tom costello, thanks.