The fact that Asiana Flight 214 suffered no apparent mechanical failures, and that the plane was clearly flying too slowly in the moments before it hit the ground well short of the runway, has raised the possibility that pilot error caused the crash landing in San Francisco last weekend.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which is leading the investigation into the deadly accident, said Monday that the four pilots of the Boeing 777 (who fly as pairs, in shifts) would be interviewed today.
Among the crew is pilot Lee Kang-guk, who was responsible for the landing and had just 43 hours of experience flying the 777 (but don’t rush to judge him as guilty).
NTSB chief Debbie Hersman said the goal is to find out what the pilots knew, when they knew it, and what they understood, as well as to identify any issues that might have impacted their performance, like fatigue or medical conditions.
The task falls to the human performance team, which conducts the interviews, arranges toxicological testing, collects witness statements, looks at the airline’s corporate culture, and speaks to those who know crew members well.
To get a more detailed picture of what goes on inside the interview room with the crew members, we took a look at the NTSB manual for conducting an accident investigation, which includes a checklist of questions to ask. They focus on all the things that could lead to poor performance, from personal issues, to lack of sleep, to illicit drug use.
They are the same for different crew members, except for the final section, which asks other crew members about the pilot. Here’s the full list, excerpted from the NTSB manual:
A. Activities in last 72 hours
- When was the last time you (the pilot, the controller, etc.) worked before the accident?
- When did you work during the previous 3 days? What were your other activities during this period?
- When did you go to sleep the previous night (or previous 3 nights)? When did you wakeup? Did you feel well rested?
- What is your normal work schedule? When are days off? When was your last vacation?
- Describe your activities on the day of the accident up to the accident. When/what did you eat? Any rest breaks?
- Was this an unusual schedule?
B. Accident History
1. Have you been involved in any previous accidents? Have you been disciplined for your performance? Have you received commendations for your performance?
C. Life Changes
1. In the past year:
- Have you had major changes in your health (good or bad)?
- Have there been major changes in your financial situation (good or bad)?
- Have there been major changes in your personal life (e.g., separation, divorce, birth, death, changes in the health of immediate family/close friends)?
- How is your health?
- What is the name/address of your personal doctor?
- How is your vision? Do you wear corrective lenses? Name of eye doctor? Prescription?
- How is your hearing? Do you wear a hearing aid? Name of doctor?
- Do you take prescription medicine? What? How often? When was the last time you took it before the accident?
- Do you drink alcohol? When/what was your last drink before the accident?
- Do you smoke tobacco? Last use before the accident?
- Do you use illicit drugs?
- In the 72 hours before the accident, did you take any drugs, prescription or non- prescription that might have affected your performance?
- How was workload on the day of the accident?
- How was workload affected by the weather?
- Any problems with the aircraft?
- Any problem with noise, vibration, temperature?
- Any problems with visibility (instruments, signals, etc.)?
- What was the mood of the other crew members before the accident? During the accident? After the accident?
- Had the crewmembers flown together before?
- Did the crew members get along personally? Did they see each other socially?
- What did they talk about?
- How did the pilots get along with passengers/flight attendants?
1. What was the pilot like personally?
- Was he married? Any children? What were his living arrangements?
- What level of education did he complete?
- How did the pilot get interested in aviation? Where did the pilot get training? What were previous jobs?
- What did the pilot like about flying? About this job? About the aircraft?
- How familiar was the pilot with the accident route? With the accident airport?
- What was the deadline for completing the trip?
- What were the pilot’s greatest strengths as a pilot? Were there areas in which the pilot could have improved?
- Did anyone ever complain about flying with this pilot?
- Did the pilot ever complain about the company or equipment?
- Did the pilot experience any emergency/incident/problem during a previous flight? What happened?
- Did the pilot receive training in cockpit resource management?
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