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Asiana Flight 214 Crash Hearing Begins

By Aditi Mukherji, JD on December 11, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The National Transportation Safety Board held a hearing Wednesday as part of its probe into the Asiana Airlines Boeing 777 crash-landing at San Francisco International Airport in July, leaving three people dead and about 200 injured.

What exactly did the NTSB hearing process entail?

NTSB Investigative Hearings

Whether it's a train, plane, or automobile, the NTSB may hold an investigative hearing as part of its investigation into a major transportation accident.

The purpose of such hearings is two-fold; first, to gather sworn testimony from subpoenaed witnesses on issues identified by the Board during the course of the investigation, and second, to allow the public to observe the progress of the investigation, according to the NTSB's website.

Hearings are usually held within six months of an accident, but they may be delayed for complex investigations. The Asiana plane crash hearing comes five months after the crash.

Asiana Plane Crash Hearing

During Wednesday's marathon 11-hour NTSB hearing, the goal was not to assign blame for the crash or make recommendations, but to explore how and why it happened.

In particular, the NTSB wanted to better understand the extent of the three-pilot crew's grasp of automated systems and visual approach procedures. This is because the NTSB's investigation is focusing on whether the three men in the cockpit were overly reliant on electronic systems, reports CNN

The question highlights a growing concern in the aviation industry that highly automated aircrafts like the Boeing 777-200ER may be leading to degraded manual flying skills.

In this case, a knowledge gap regarding the plane's auto-throttle, which controls the plane's power, may have been the reason behind the crew's failure to adjust accordingly when the plane was descending too fast, when its forward speed was too slow, and when the plane was not lined up with the runway's center line.

The auto-throttle issue has landed Boeing in some legal hot water with victims, but the investigation is still ongoing.

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