Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content
Bookmark and Share this page


Investigative Hearing - Crash of Asiana Flight 214, San Francisco, CA, 7/6/2013, Chairman's Opening Remarks
Deborah A.P. Hersman
Washington, DC

Good morning. I am Debbie Hersman, Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board. I am joined by my fellow Board Members: Vice Chairman Chris Hart, Member Robert Sumwalt, Member Mark Rosekind and Member Earl Weener.

During this investigation, we are working closely with NTSB's Korean counterpart, the Korean Aviation and Railway Accident Investigation Board, or KARAIB. We welcome Chairman Tae-hwan Cho, as well as other KARAIB leaders and staff, in the audience today. I also thank Jeong-kwen Park, the Accredited Representative from KARAIB, who also will serve on this hearing's technical panel. Finally, I would like to recognize our friends here today from China's CAAC (Civil Aviation Administration of China); France's BEA (Bureau d'Enquetes et d'Analyses); and the Netherlands' DSB (Dutch Safety Board).

Today's hearing will address the first fatal commercial airline crash in the United States since February 2009. It is a testament to the steadily improving safety of commercial aviation that almost four and a half years, and more than 40 million flights, have passed between the Colgan Air crash near Buffalo, New York, that claimed 50 lives and the one we discuss today. Yet, sadly, we do meet today to learn lessons from the crash of Asiana Airlines Flight 214 at San Francisco International Airport.

On Saturday, July 6, 2013, Asiana Flight 214, a Boeing 777-200ER with 291 passengers, 12 cabin crew, and 4 flight crew aboard, struck a seawall during approach to the airport. The tail cone, vertical and horizontal stabilizers, part of the landing gear, and the aircraft's two engines were separated from the plane during the accident sequence, while the aircraft rotated 330 degrees before coming to rest a couple thousand feet down the runway. The post-crash fire initiated when oil came into contact with the right engine, which remained in close proximity to the fuselage and ignited.

The accident resulted in three fatalities, and more than 200 passengers and crew were transported to local area hospitals. On behalf of my fellow Board members and the entire NTSB staff, we offer our condolences to those who lost loved ones and extend our sincere wishes for those who were injured to achieve a full recovery. I know several of you are viewing these proceedings in San Francisco or are watching at home. We recognize that your lives were forever changed when the crash occurred, and we know that nothing can replace the loss of your loved ones or repair the trauma of a life-changing injury. But we do have the opportunity today to ensure that the lessons of this event are well-learned and the circumstances are not repeated.

And, despite damage which might have resulted in scores or hundreds of fatalities, more than 300 passengers and crew survived. In this hearing, we will learn about the facts of the crash. We will also learn about the factors that enabled so many to walk away. We will focus not only on the human-machine interface in highly automated aircraft, but also on emergency response and cabin safety.

Last week, on December 5, 2013, the NTSB conducted a pre-hearing conference attended by NTSB's personnel and the parties to this hearing. At the conference, we delineated the issues to be discussed at this hearing and identified and agreed upon the list of witnesses and exhibits.

The five broad issues we will discuss today are:

1. Boeing 777 flight deck design concepts and characteristics;
2. Asiana pilot training on Boeing 777 automated systems and visual approach procedures;
3. Effects and influence of automation on human performance in the accident sequence;
4. Emergency response; and
5. Airplane cabin crashworthiness and occupant protection.

Testimony and questioning will be limited to these five issues.

Before proceeding, I'd like to identify the NTSB staff members who are part of this hearing:
Bill English, Investigator-in-Charge
Tim LeBaron, Hearing Officer

Our technical panelists include:
Dr. Bill Bramble
Roger Cox
John DeLisi
Emily Gibson
Pete Wentz, and
From KARAIB, Mr. Jeong-kwen Park.

Additional support is provided by:
Keith Holloway, Public Affairs;
David Tochen, Jim Rodriguez, and Benjamin Allen, legal support; and
Adam Huray and Andy Olvis, audio/visuals.

I would also like to take a moment to thank Hyoo Choi, who acted as a liaison between the NTSB and KARAIB in preparation for this hearing.

I will now introduce the parties designated to participate in the investigative hearing. As prescribed in the Board's rules, we designate as parties those persons whose participation we deem necessary in the public interest and whose special knowledge will contribute to the development of pertinent evidence.

As I call the name of the party, I ask the designated spokesperson to identify themselves and their affiliation with the party they represent and introduce the other persons at their party's table.

Asiana Airlines – Capt. Seung-young Kim
Asiana Pilot Union (APU) – Capt. Sung-sik Min
Air Cruisers – Mr. John O'Donnell
Boeing Company – Ms. Michelle Bernson
City and County of San Francisco – Mr. Tryg McCoy
Federal Aviation Administration – Mr. Bob Drake

I'd like to thank all of the parties for their assistance and cooperation with the NTSB investigation thus far. There is still more work to be done in the investigation, but we appreciate your valuable time, and we look forward to working with you as the investigation moves forward.

We will begin the hearing with a presentation by the Investigator-In-Charge, Bill English, who will provide an overview of the crash.

We will then proceed in sequence; one panel at a time for each hearing issue.

For each panel, the Hearing Officer, Tim LeBaron, will call and introduce the witnesses, and each will testify under oath. The witnesses have been pre-qualified and their qualifications and biographical information are available on the NTSB website.

The witnesses will be questioned first by the NTSB technical panel, then by the spokesperson for each party, and finally by the Board of Inquiry.

The parties will be limited to 5 minutes per panel. After one round of questions, due to time constraints, a second round will be limited to pertinent questions that serve to clarify the record or to address some new matter raised.

I must emphasize again the fact-finding nature of the hearing. NTSB investigations are, by regulation, fact-finding proceedings with no adverse parties. The Board does not assign fault or blame for an accident or incident. At this hearing, witnesses may not speculate or analyze the facts, and questions are limited to the predetermined subject matter of the hearing, which is contained in the hearing agenda. Questions relating to fault, outside litigation, legal liability, or cause of or manner of death, will not be permitted.

The exhibits include redactions, noted with an opaque box, which were the result of negotiations between the parties and the NTSB regarding claims of the disclosure of proprietary and personally identifiable information. The NTSB is authorized by statute to disclose information to carry out its duties, but we must do so in a way that protects confidentiality to the greatest extent possible.

At this time I will call on the Hearing Officer to go over a few items. Mr. LeBaron.