NTSB hearing on SF crash postponed until Wednesday

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Associated Press

Posted on December 10, 2013 at 5:05 PM

Updated Tuesday, Dec 10 at 6:34 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — The National Transportation Safety Board has rescheduled for Wednesday its hearing into the crash-landing of an Asiana jet at San Francisco International Airport that left three Chinese teens dead.

The hearing was originally scheduled as a two-day series of panels Tuesday and Wednesday, but it was postponed due to wintry weather. It will now be consolidated into a single day, starting at 8:30 a.m. at NTSB headquarters.

The safety board wants to examine whether the Korean airline's pilots were overly reliant on the Boeing 777's computer systems when they approached too low and slow before striking a seawall and tumbling across the runway in July.

The board said the hearing will focus on "pilot awareness in a highly automated aircraft." There are also plans to review the emergency response.

Three teenage girls were killed. One died during the crash, a second was run over by a fire truck on the tarmac, and a third died at San Francisco General Hospital. More than 150 of the 307 people aboard the flight were injured.

In briefings held days after the July crash, investigators said pilots of Asiana Flight 214 relied on automated cockpit equipment to control the jetliner's speed as they landed at the San Francisco airport, and they realized too late that they were in trouble.

Increasing automation has been a tremendous overall safety boon to aviation. But the automation has also changed the relationship between pilots and their aircraft, and an overreliance on automated cockpit systems has figured in dozens of air crashes and incidents in recent years.

Asiana Airlines' newly appointed chief safety officer Akiyoshi Yamamura, who plans to attend the hearing, told reporters in Seoul last week that safety is the airline's "top priority" and that it continues to improve oversight of pilots.

The pilot at the controls when the plane crashed was only about halfway through his training on the Boeing 777 and was landing that type of aircraft at the San Francisco airport for the first time. The co-pilot was on his first trip as a flight instructor.

At least 61 passengers are suing the airline, according to federal court records.

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Mendoza reported from San Jose, Calif.

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