Here's How The Government Will Investigate The San Francisco Plane Crash

Smoke rises after an Asiana Airlines Boeing 777 crash landed in San Francisco Saturday morning.

The investigation into the crash landing of an Asiana Airlines Boeing 777 in San Francisco is already underway, though we may not have answers for a long time.  

The task falls to the National Transportation Safety Board, which quickly assembled a team and sent it to San Francisco.  

Three investigators based near Los Angeles should arrive within the next few hours and prepare the scene, Chairman Debbie Hersman said at a press conference this evening.

Other investigators, en route from Washington, D.C., will arrive later tonight. 

While they travel to the scene, NTSB officials at headquarters in Washington, D.C. are collecting information on the aircraft’s maintenance history, weather, and air traffic control communications, all of which should be available for investigators upon their arrival in San Francisco.

Once in place, different teams lead by subject matter experts will look at the aircraft itself, human factors, survival factors, airport conditions, and other areas.  

Investigators will recuperate the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder (aka the black boxes), which should not be an issue here, since the 77 crashed on land. Those will be sent to DC for analysis.

Standard NTSB procedure is to set up a command post at the accident scene, often in a nearby hotel. Teams generally remain in place for three to seven days, but can stay longer if necessary. They try to hold two press conferences daily, one in the late afternoon and another in the evening. 

The Board will not identify the names of those involved in the crash (that is up to the discretion of Asiana in this case), and it will not publicly analyse information it releases until it is ready to make a final report. 

It does not hurry to conclusions: Four years passed between the crash of TWA Flight 800 and the publication of the NTSB’s final report on its cause. 

As to a potential cause of today’s crash, Hersman said it’s “still to early for us to tell,” but that “everything is on the table at this point.” 

The Federal Aviation Administration, Boeing, and the Korea Aviation Accident Investigation Board will all cooperate in the investigation.

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