Nightly News   |  July 10, 2013

Passenger evacuation delayed during Asiana flight

After taking quick action, the flight attendants on Asiana flight 214 managed to save more than 300 lives – but the doors of the airplane were not opened until about 90 seconds after the plane came to rest, according to the National Transportation Safety Board. NBC’s Tom Costello reports

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>>> good evening. shortly before we came on the air tonight, members of the crew of that asiana airlines wide bodied 777 talked about what happened and what they did in the moments after the crash in san francisco where the tail hit the seawall and the jet spudded and skidded to a halt. the flight deck to the crusade not to evacuate immediately. we know the imminent danger called for an immediate evacuation. tom costello covers for us tonight from san francisco . good evening.

>> reporter: hi, brian. good evening. i'll take you right to 28 left out there at sfo. and we've just been told by the ntsb, they hope to release the runway tonight, although it will take some time, of course, to clear the debris from the runway. we also learned this afternoon as you mentioned , first the pilots did not order that an evacuation would be ordered. it took 90 seconds. at fist, the pilot did not realize how bad the crash was. 12 flight attendants on board flight 214 . rescuers credit their quick action with helping to save 307 lives.

>> as the evacuation went on, the fire did continue and the flight attendants and flight crew were involved in trying to fight the fire on the inside.

>> reporter: three flight attendants were ejected. one sustained massive head injuries, the other a broken leg. the first officer on a 747 on the same runway waiting to take off, survived the crash, two survivors were stumbling but moving. i saw one survivor stand up, walk a few feet, then appear to squat down. the other appeared to be a woman who was walking and then fell off to the side and remained there.

>> asiana airlines and all the flight attendants and personnel are working as hard as possible to recover from this accident.

>> reporter: meanwhile, three cockpits in the cockpit told investigators they struggled to line up properly for visual landing and realized too late auto throttle had not maintained minimum speed. investigators have not found any evidence of the auto throttle malfunctions. tom casey says auto throttle isn't designed to kick in when a plane is already set up for a lanning.

>> if the airplane think it's landing, it will not come in. it just says, well, captain is landing the airplane.

>> we have to go, there is automation to support the pilots, but the pilots also have to fly the airplane. they have to monitor and fly.

>> reporter: back on runway 28 left, a haunting image as asiana flight 214 again arrived, passing the burned out remains of flight 214 . the pilot reports at 1,400 feet he had a flash of blinding light. they aren't sure what that was or if it contributed to the crash.

>> another bit of aviation news. this goes back to the crash of a commuter airliner in buffalo in bad weather a few years back.

>> reporter: the faa is raising requirements for pilots. captains have to have 1,000 hours as a copilot. copilots have to have 1,500 hours. at the time, many people believed and the investigation showed the crew didn't have sufficient experience.

>> tom costello, starting us off from san francisco . tom, thanks.