‘No mechanical failures’ in San Francisco jet crash (2023)

An Asiana Airlines Boeing 777 that crashed and burst into flames on Saturday as it landed at San Francisco International Airport had “no mechanical problems”, the airline’s CEO said Sunday. Two people and 182 others were injured in the accident.


No mechanical problems were reported on the Asiana Airlines flight that crash landed at San Francisco airport on Saturday and caught fire, the airline’s CEO said Sunday.

The Boeing 777 packed with more than 300 people slammed onto the runway while landing and caught fire, forcing many to escape by sliding down the emergency inflatable slides and into a trail of metal debris as flames tore through the plane.

Two Chinese teenage girls who were found outside the wreckage died in the crash, while another 182 people were taken to hospitals, many with minor injuries, authorities said. Forty-nine people were reported to be in critical condition, San Francisco International Airport spokesman Doug Yakel said.

As the plane approached the runway from the waters of San Francisco Bay around noon, travelers in the terminals and others eyewitnesses could see that the aircraft was swaying unusually from side to side and that at one point the tail seemed to hit the ground before breaking off.

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Kate Belding, who was jogging a few miles away, said she thought: “Oh my God. That plane is crashing.”

By the time the flames were out, much of the top of the Boeing 777’s fuselage had burned away. The tail section was gone, with pieces of it scattered across the beginning of the runway. One engine appeared to have broken away. Emergency responders could be seen walking inside the burned-out wreckage.

News of the crash spread quickly on Twitter and the Internet in this wired city, with eyewitnesses tweeting their stories, posting images of the plumes of smoke rising above the bay and uploading video of passengers fleeing the burning plane.

“It just looked really bad,” Belding said. “I’ve seen the pictures of it since then, and it’s amazing anyone walked out of that plane.”

The investigation has been turned over to the FBI and terrorism has been ruled out, San Francisco Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White said. Federal aviation and transportation investigators were heading to the scene. Asiana, Boeing and the engine manufacturer, Pratt & Whitney, pledged to work with them.

“Miraculous” survival

Vedpal Singh, who was sitting in the middle of the aircraft and survived the crash with his family, said there was no forewarning from the pilot or any crew members before the plane touched down hard and he heard a loud sound.

“We knew something was horribly wrong,” said Singh, who suffered a fractured collarbone and had his arm was in a sling.

“It’s miraculous we survived,” he said.

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A visibly shaken Singh said the plane went silent before people tried to get out anyway they could. His 15-year-old son said luggage tumbled from the overhead bins. The entire incident lasted about 10 seconds.

Another passenger, Benjamin Levy, 39, said it looked to him that the plane was flying too low and too close to the bay as it approached the runway. Levy, who was sitting in an emergency exit row, said he felt the pilot try to lift the jet up before it crashed, and thinks the maneuver might have saved some lives.

“Everybody was screaming. I was trying to usher them out,” he recalled of the first seconds after the landing. “I said, ‘Stay calm, stop screaming, help each other out, don’t push.”

Hayes-White said she did not know the ages of the people who died, but said they were found on “the exterior” of the plane. She said the 307 passengers and crew members had been aboard had been accounted for following several hours of confusion during which authorities said they were unsure of the whereabouts of more than 60 people who, as it turned out, had been evacuated to a different area of the airport.

Approaching the runway ‘too low’?

Based on witness accounts in the news and video of the wreckage, Mike Barr, a former military pilot and accident investigator who teaches aviation safety at the University of Southern California, said it appeared the plane approached the runway too low and something may have caught the runway lip – the seawall at the end of the runway.

San Francisco is one of several airports around the country that border bodies of water that have walls at the end of their runways to prevent planes that overrun a runway from ending up in the water.

Since the plane was about to land, its landing gear would have already been down, Barr said. It’s possible the landing gear or the tail of the plane hit the seawall, he said. If that happened, it would effectively slam the plane into the runway, he said.

Noting that some witnesses reported hearing the plane’s engines rev up just before the crash, Barr said that would be consistent with a pilot who realized at the last minute that the plane was too low and was increasing power to the engines to try to increase altitude. Barr said he could think of no reason why a plane would come in to land that low.

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Belding was out jogging just before 11:30 a.m. on a path across the water from the airport when she noticed the plane approaching the runway in a way that “just didn’t look like it was coming in quite right.”

“Then all of a sudden I saw what looked like a cloud of dirt puffing up and then there was a big bang and it kind of looked like the plane maybe bounced (as it neared the ground),” she said. “I couldn’t really tell what happened, but you saw the wings going up and (in) a weird angle.”

“Not like it was cartwheeling,” she said, but rather as though the wings were almost swaying from side to side.

The flight originated in Shanghai, China, and stopped over in Seoul, South Korea, before coming to San Francisco, airport officials said. The airline said there were 16 crew members aboard, and the 291 passengers included 77 South Koreans, 141 Chinese, 61 Americans and one Japanese citizen. The nationalities of the remaining passengers weren’t immediately known.

Airport spokesman Doug Yakel said 49 people were in serious condition and 132 had less significant injuries.

The airport closed for several hours, and when it reopened, two of the four runways were operating.

Asia a fast-growing market for aviation

Asiana is a South Korean airline, second in size to national carrier Korean Air. It has recently tried to expand its presence in the United States, and joined the Star Alliance, which is anchored in the U.S. by United Airlines.

The 777-200 is a long-range plane from Boeing. The twin-engine aircraft is one of the world’s most popular long-distance planes, often used for flights of 12 hours or more, from one continent to another. The airline’s website says its 777s can carry between 246 to 300 passengers.

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The 777 is a smaller, wide-body jet that can travel long distances without refueling and is typically used for long flights over water.

Asia remains one of the fastest-growing regions for aviation in the world. Even with slowing economies in Japan and China, airlines there saw 3.7 percent more passengers than a year ago, according to the International Air Transport Association.

Finding enough experienced pilots to meet a growing number of flights is becoming a problem. A 2012 report by aircraft manufacturer Boeing said the industry would need 460,000 new commercial airline pilots in the next two decades - with 185,000 of them needed in Asia alone.

“The Asia-Pacific region continues to present the largest projected growth in pilot demand,” the report said.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

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(Video) Plane crash at San Francisco airport


What is mechanical failure in aircraft? ›

This category includes engine/power loss issues, landing gear functionality, loss of critical flight controls, and non-engine system/component failure. Includes failures or malfunctions of any of the following: propellers, rotors, propeller/main rotor drive train, reversers, and powerplant controls.

What did the co pilot say to Captain ASOH? ›

The copilot yelled, “We are too low — pull up, pull up!” He didn't need to say it as Captain Asoh had already pushed the throttles forward.

What was the technical cause of the crash of United 173 in Portland Oregon? ›

The NTSB determined the following probable cause: The failure of the captain to monitor properly the aircraft's fuel state and to properly respond to the low fuel state and the crewmember's advisories regarding fuel state. This resulted in fuel exhaustion to all engines.

Why did Colgan flight 3407 crash? ›

The aircraft, a Bombardier Q400, entered an aerodynamic stall from which it did not recover, and crashed into a house at 6038 Long Street in Clarence Center, New York, at 10:17 pm EST (03:17 UTC), killing all 49 passengers and crew on board, as well as one person inside the house. IATA flight No. ICAO flight No.

What is an example of mechanical failure? ›

Common Mechanical Failures

If brakes fail, then a motorist cannot stop their car in time. Brake failure causes many rear-end and T-bone collisions. Problems include malfunctioning antilock brake systems (ABS), worn brake pads and discs, and faulty or worn brake lines.

What mechanical failure means? ›

Mechanical Failure means failure due to a defect in materials or workmanship. Mechanical Failure does not include failure due to normal wear or improper machine application and/or maintenance; Sample 1Sample 2Sample 3.

What does the captain say when the plane is crashing? ›

Mayday. And that's because it's a word that's been used for the last century to immediately indicate an emergency. The typical way of saying it is to call it three times in a row — Mayday! Mayday!

What captain says before takeoff? ›

Usually, the Captain will make a small briefing before take-off, sometimes indicating the priority for take-off (e.g. “We are third in priority for take-off, we should depart in about five minutes”). But there is always an announcement like: “Flight attendants, prepare for take-off please.”

What did the pilot copilot and the flight engineer do when they heard about the hijack Do you think they were right in doing so? ›

When they heard about the hijack the pilot, co-pilot and the flight engineer ran away from the aircraft when the plane was on the runway. Yes, they were right in doing so.

What was the main cause of United Airlines flight 173 accident? ›

The National Transportation Safety Board determined that the probable cause of the accident was the failure of the captain to monitor properly the aircraft's fuel state and to properly respond to the low fuel state and the crewmember's advisories regarding fuel state. This resulted in fuel exhaustion to all engines.

What caused United engine failure? ›

The NTSB released a preliminary report that determined fractured blade fans as the cause, with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issuing an emergency airworthiness directive demanding closer blade inspections.

Did they find United 93 black box? ›

Did they find the plane's black boxes here? Yes. Both of the plane's recorders, the so-called "black boxes" (which actually are orange), were found in the crash site crater. The flight data recorder was recovered on Thursday, September 13 at 4:20 pm at a depth of 15 feet.

What caused the 2009 plane crash? ›

People are fascinated by disasters, and one that did not happen made news around the world. It was the landing of US Airways flight 1549 in the Hudson River on January 15, 2009. The cause of the crash was that shortly after takeoff, the plane hit a flock of what proved to be Canada geese that destroyed the engines.

Can a 747 land in Buffalo? ›

Vanecek explained that Buffalo's 8,827-foot runway can handle international flights, as well as big aircraft such as a Boeing 747.

Why did plane crash in Buffalo? ›

The NTSB lists the official cause of the crash as "the pilot's failure to maintain control of the airplane for undetermined reasons during the descent." BUFFALO, N.Y. — The final report on a plane crash that killed Buffalo attorney Steve Barnes almost two years ago has been released, and there aren't a lot of answers.

How can we prevent mechanical failure? ›

Three steps to prevent equipment failure
  1. 1) Establish a maintenance schedule. When repairs and upkeep take place on machines at regular intervals, these efforts can significantly improve the equipment reliability of these systems. ...
  2. 2) Eliminate potential defects. ...
  3. 3) Utilize equipment monitoring.

What causes mechanical failure? ›


Lack of or inadequate lubrication and not attending equipment safety stops when recommended can be the cause of failures. Incorrect operation of the machinery may result in malfunctioning of its internal parts and subsequent failure.

What are the 3 types of failure? ›

Edmondson talks in the book about the three types of failure you can experience in a team:
  • Preventable failure: a failure caused by deviating from a known process. ...
  • Complex failure: a failure caused by a system breakdown. ...
  • Intelligent failure: a failure caused by an unsuccessful trial.
4 Nov 2019

What are the types of mechanical failure? ›

Some types of mechanical failure mechanisms are: excessive deflection, buckling, ductile fracture, brittle fracture, impact, creep, relaxation, thermal shock, wear, corrosion, stress corrosion cracking, and various types of fatigue.

How do you call this mechanical failure? ›

The term "machinery failure" or "malfunction" usually implies that the machine has stopped functioning the way in which it was intended or designed. This is referred to as “loss of usefulness” of the machine or component.

What type of accidents are caused by mechanical errors? ›

Mechanical failures and manufacturer defects can contribute to all types of crashes, including rear-end collisions, vehicle rollovers, head-on collisions, and single-car accidents.

What kills in a plane crash? ›

In fact, the vast majority of accident deaths occur after the actual crash. Most of those subsequent deaths are due to fire and smoke inhalation. Most of the rest of the deaths are environmental, such as exposure, drowning, etc…

Why do you remove jewelry in a plane crash? ›

Because there's nothing like catching your wedding ring on the metal hook near the slide, and losing a finger while going down. The outside airplane environment during evacuation has many opportunities for potentially fatal interactions between jewelry and equipment.

What was flight 19 last words? ›

Around 18:20, Taylor's last message was received. (It has also been reported that Taylor's last message was received at 19:04.) He was heard saying "All planes close up tight ... we'll have to ditch unless landfall ... when the first plane drops below 10 gallons [38 liters], we all go down together."

How do you greet a pilot? ›

Ladies and gentlemen, good morning / afternoon / evening. Welcome on board (flight reference). This is Captain / Co-pilot (your name) speaking and I have some information about our flight.

What do pilots say when they drop a bomb? ›

When you fly one of our Air Combat missions, you will hear “FOX 2, Fight's On” to initiate our canned setups. “FOX 2” is a brevity code used by fighter pilots to declare a weapon's release (sorta like “bomb's away” from WWII).

Why do pilots say see ya? ›

It's so the controller knows that the pilot not only heard his handoff, but is actually leaving the frequency. The pilot could have heard the handoff and acknowledged but then had a question that the controller didn't hear.

Why do pilots not fly over the North Pole? ›

Yet, flying directly over the North Pole is extremely difficult and uncommon due to the dangerous climate conditions in the North Pole, and the region's complete lack of infrastructure. Plane's depend on infrastructure like air control towers and airports, which the North Pole lack.

How did the pilot get the information about the hijack answer? ›

How did the pilot get the information about the hijack? Ans. Neerja rushed towards the cockpit and managed to shout out the hijack code before a terrorist stopped her. Another flight attendant, who caught the code, conveyed it to the pilot.

How did the pilot get out of the storm and landed safely? ›

After some time the pilot of another plane started to land. The writer followed him blindly through the storm and came out of the clouds. He saw the lights of the runway and landed safely.

Did Boeing settle with victims? ›

As part of the settlement, Boeing agreed to pay $2.5 billion, with most of it going to the airlines. And if the company lives up to the terms, Boeing and its top executives will be immune from further criminal prosecution. RYAN: It was like a whole new wound had been inflicted on us. SCHAPER: Again, Naiose Ryan.

Was Boeing found guilty? ›

A jury found him not guilty shortly after both sides rested their cases on Wednesday in Fort Worth. “We had a great team and great client — and thank heavens for our independent, smart, fair judge and jury,” Mr. Forkner's lawyer, David Gerger, said in a statement. “They made all the difference.”

When was the last time United had a plane crash? ›

United Airlines Flight 232
DateJuly 19, 1989
SummaryUncontained engine failure resulting in loss of hydraulics
SiteSioux Gateway Airport Sioux City, Iowa, United States 42°24′29″N 96°23′02″W
16 more rows

What is the most common cause of engine failure in flight? ›

The most probable cause of engine failure is fuel contamination, ie, something in the fuel – most commonly water.

What caused Boeing 777 engine failure? ›

The jet engine fan blade that broke loose on a United Airlines plane Saturday near Denver, triggering a massive failure leading to the grounding of dozens of Boeing Co. 777s, resulted from metal fatigue, according to National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Robert Sumwalt.

Why did Boeing 777 engine failure? ›

In February 2021, the agency ordered immediate inspections of 777 planes with PW 4000 engines before further flights, after the National Transportation Safety Board found a cracked fan blade on the United engine.

Did any of the black boxes survive 9 11? ›

At the World Trade Center site, none of the four recorders on the two hijacked aircraft were recovered in the building rubble. At the Pentagon site, both boxes from Flight 77 were recovered, but the CVR was so badly damaged that it did not yield usable information.

Why are black boxes kept in water? ›

Question: Why, after a plane has crashed into the water, do investigators put the "black box" back in water? – Will Cowger, Houston. Answer: If a flight data recorder is recovered from the water, it is submerged in fresh, clean water to prevent deposits such as salt or minerals from drying out within the device.

How long can a black box survive underwater? ›

Black box will last for 20 years too in water. But, tracing and retrieval from sea bed ( or water) is difficult after 30 days. The battery in UAB/ ULB- under water acoustic ( locator) beacon will last only for about 30 days.

What is the deadliest plane crash on Earth? ›

Resulting in 583 fatalities, the disaster is the deadliest accident in aviation history.
Tenerife airport disaster.
Date27 March 1977
SummaryRunway collision in fog
SiteLos Rodeos Airport (now Tenerife North Ciudad de La Laguna Airport) Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain 28°28′53.94″N 16°20′18.24″W
Total fatalities583
38 more rows

What is the deadliest plane crash in US history? ›

All 258 passengers and 13 crew on board were killed, along with two people on the ground. With 273 fatalities, it is the deadliest aviation accident to have occurred in the United States. Des Plaines, Illinois, U.S. IATA flight No.

What plane crash caused the most deaths? ›

The most fatalities in any aviation accident in history occurred during 1977 in the Tenerife airport disaster, when 583 people were killed when two Boeing 747s collided on a runway.

Has a 747 ever broken the sound barrier? ›

High-speed 747s

The 747-100, for instance, was tested up to Mach 0.99, almost breaking the sound barrier. Other 747s, such as Air Force One, have approached the sound barrier but never crossed it.

Can a civilian buy a 747? ›

Unfortunately, you would need to reach for something only achieved by a handful of people in aviation history before you and try and get your hands on a jetliner, such as a 747 or A320. So can I buy a jetliner? Absolutely.

Why is the 747 not used anymore? ›

On July 29, 2020, Boeing confirmed that the final 747 would be delivered in 2022 as a result of "current market dynamics and outlook" stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, according to CEO David Calhoun. The last aircraft, a 747-8F freighter for Atlas Air, left the production line on October 6, 2022.

Is Buffalo air still running? ›

Since 1970 Buffalo Airways has been operating our legendary aircraft with outstanding customer service.

What caused plane crash in Alaska? ›

The thread failure was caused by excessive wear resulting from Alaska Airlines' insufficient lubrication of the jackscrew assembly." For their heroic efforts to save the plane, the pilots were posthumously awarded and commemorated.
Alaska Airlines Flight 261.
DestinationSeattle–Tacoma Int'l Airport
15 more rows

Did they ever recover any bodies from Flight 93? ›

Primarily airplane wreckage, some personal effects, and a very small amount of unidentified human remains were found.

What is the most common cause of mechanical failures in general aviation? ›

1. Loss of control in-flight (LOC-I) A loss of control in-flight is the most common cause of general aviation accidents.

What are the mechanical failure modes? ›

For mechanical devices, there are four Failure Mechanisms: corrosion, erosion, fatigue and overload. While those Failure mechanisms exists many places in nature, they may or may not be present in the specific working environment of an asset.

What type of accidents cause mechanical errors? ›

Mechanical failures and manufacturer defects can contribute to all types of crashes, including rear-end collisions, vehicle rollovers, head-on collisions, and single-car accidents.

What is the main cause of failure? ›

The main causes of failure in life are poor environmental influences, the wrong mindset, bad habits, and lack of motivation. All these reasons for failure can be addressed if you identify which ones apply to you and create a plan for removing them.

What are the two main types of failure? ›

Think of it this way: There are two kinds of failure. The first comes from never trying out your ideas because you are afraid, or because you are waiting for the perfect time. This kind of failure you can never learn from, and such timidity will destroy you. The second kind comes from a bold and venturesome spirit.

What is the most common failure mode? ›

In materials science, fatigue – the weakening of a material caused by cyclic loading resulting in progressive, brittle, localized structural damage – is the most common failure mode and the one that generally produces other types of failure.

How do you overcome failure? ›

  1. Find the root cause of failure. ...
  2. Overcome the fear of failure, then try again. ...
  3. Take a break if you have to, but don't give up. ...
  4. If you fail again, compartmentalize and stay objective. ...
  5. Don't be tempted to lower your ambitions. ...
  6. Find like-minded people to help you see things differently.
20 Oct 2020

Who solved the problem of mechanical flight? ›

It took more than one person to solve the problem of human flight. Two were required. The Wright brothers' insatiable curiosity helped them cultivate an intellectual range and courage that made them as comfortable with mechanics and mathematics as they were with art, biology and literature.

What are 3 of the most common causes of airplane accidents? ›

Common Causes of Aviation Accidents
  • Pilot Error – Pilot error is the most common cause of aviation accidents. ...
  • Mechanical Error – Mechanical errors are the second leading cause of aviation accidents, accounting for 22% of all crashes. ...
  • Inclement Weather – Inclement weather is the cause of 12% of aviation accidents.

What are the three most useless things in aviation? ›

The first cliché to approach the podium is the aviation classic: The three most useless things in aviation are: altitude above you, runway behind you, and … air in the tanks.

What are the three types of failure modes? ›

Examples of failure modes are: Ductile fracture. Brittle fracture. Fatigue fracture.

What are the 3 modes of tool failure? ›

The three tool failure modes are (1) fracture failure, (2) temperature failure, and (3) gradual wear.


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