Nightly News   |  December 11, 2013

Is ‘automatic addiction’ to blame in Asiana crash?

More details are emerging about the plane crash at San Francisco International Airport last July that killed three and injured more than 180. NBC’s Tom Costello reports.

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>>> we begin with stunning new details we are hearing for the first time about what may have contributed to a plane crash in san francisco the last july. three people died and expert witnesses say it may have been a pilot relying too much on computers. it's what they call automation addiction. tom costello has been following the story closely. he joins us with details tonight. tom, good evening.

>> reporter: ann, good evening. this was a veteran airbus pilot at the controls of a boeing 777 . he may not have understood it. and his superior was in the cockpit. they were flying 40 miles per hour too slow and took action only seconds before the crash when it was too late. from the ntsb, new surveillance video showing flight 214 crashing into the sea wall last july, then violently cartwheeling around and slamming onto the runway at sfo.

>> we offer condolences to those who lost loved ones.

>> reporter: today a fatal cockpit combination before the crash. pilots failed to notice air speed was too low. confusion over how the automated systems work and korean cultural sensitivities. one big focus on the boeing 777 . the training pilot thought they were maintaining speed though he switched off auto pilot to land manually. the korean pilot's union suggested a design flaw confused the crew. boeing insist it is the system is widely used and flying the plane is up to the pilot, not the computer.

>> the pilot is the final authority for the operation of the airplane. we try not to put in design elements that can override the pilot.

>> reporter: kuk was the pilot flying on his final flight with a training captain. he told investigators he was, quote, very concerned about landing manually because the airport's automated glide slope which gliuides pilots in was out of service. he failed to acknowledge four warning that is he was descending too the rapidly and he said his low level position would make it very hard to abort and go around. veteran pilots say there is a less son in relying on automation.

>> you have to keep up with basic airmanship to make the auto systems work on behalf of safety instead of against safety.

>> reporter: the f.a.a. last month called for more simulator time for u.s. pilots to beef up manual flying skills. jetblue's director of training brought me into the sim.

>> it is imperative pilots can practice and see this in a simulator so if they are in that situation they know how to recover.

>> reporter: a lot of focus today on whether the pilots at asiana are taught how boeing systems work and whether pilot lee was confused by the difference between the airbus and