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July 11, 2013

Asiana passengers called 911 begging for help

(Continued)

SAN FRANCISCO — Pilots are trained to communicate their concerns openly, she said, "to make sure that a junior pilot feels comfortable challenging a senior pilot and to make sure the senior pilot welcomes feedback in a cockpit environment from all members of the crew and considers it."

Hersman said the pilot trainee told investigators he was blinded by a light at about 500 feet, which would have been 34 seconds before impact and the point at which the airliner began to slow and drop precipitously. She said lasers have not been ruled out. It was unclear, however, whether the flash might have played a role in the crash.

Hersman also said a third pilot in the jump seat of the cockpit told investigators he was warning them their speed was too slow as they approached the runway.

And she said when the plane came to a stop, pilots told passengers to stay seated for 90 seconds while they communicated with the tower as part of a safety procedure. Hersman said this has happened after earlier accidents and was not necessarily a problem. People did not begin fleeing the aircraft until 90 seconds later when a fire was spotted outside the plane.

Hersman stressed that while the trainee pilot was flying the plane, the instructor was ultimately responsible and, thus, the way they worked together will be scrutinized.

"That's what the airline needs to do, be responsible so that in the cockpit you're matching the best people, especially when you're introducing someone to a new aircraft," former NTSB Chairman James Hall said.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology aeronautics professor Mary Cummings said it's common for two commercial pilots who have never worked together before to be assigned to the same flight. But she said the military tries to have crews work together more permanently.

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