orangeleader.com (Orange, Texas)

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July 12, 2013

Outline emerges of last moments before plane crash

(Continued)

SAN FRANCISCO —

The pilot flying the plane, Lee Gang-kuk, 46, had nearly 10,000 hours of flying experience, but just 35 hours flying a Boeing 777. He had recently completed training that qualified him to fly passengers in the 777, and was about halfway through his post-qualification training. He was seated in the left cockpit pilot seat. In the co-pilot position was Lee Jeong-Min, an experienced captain who was supervising Lee Gang-kuk's training. It was Lee Gang-kuk's first time landing a 777 in San Francisco.

At 11:19:23 PDT, after a nearly 11-hour flight, the plane was traveling over the San Francisco Peninsula. The weather was near perfect, sunny with light winds.

Lee Jeong-Min and a third pilot sitting in a jump seat just behind the main seats, a first officer, were supposed to be monitoring the plane's controls. One of their most important jobs was to closely monitor the plane's two airspeed indicators. In the U.S., if an amber bar is more than five knots above or below the target speed during landing, the pilot flying is supposed to abort and make another attempt, according to pilots interviewed by The Associated Press.

As the plane descended to 1,600 feet, the autopilot was turned off. At 1,400 feet, the plane's airspeed was about 170 knots.

The flight data recorder shows the plane's autothrottle — similar to a car's cruise control — was set on idle during the approach, Hersman said, and that there were multiple commands at times given to the autothrottle and autopilot.

At 11:26:58 and 1,000 feet, the pilots made contact with the airport tower. When they were cleared to land 12 seconds later, the plane's altitude had dropped to about 600 feet. The plane was configured for its approach and the landing gear was down. The airspeed was about 149 knots. A target speed of 137 knots was set.

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