In a December 8 article posted on its website, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported that the crash of Asiana Flight 214 at San Francisco in July was caused by excessive dependence on cockpit computers, together with pilot confusion about automated thrust settings.
WSJ pointed out that after the Asiana jetliner passed through about 3,000 feet, the pilots did not realize that computerized speed controls had become inactive after changing the setting to computers and easing back on the throttles. They were reported to have failed to notice or react to a specific cockpit alert about the status of the auto-throttles.
WSJ reported that investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and others regard the crash as a prime example of a trend of “automation addiction.” The article said, “While the descent rate increased to about 1,200 feet per minute – or more than twice the normal rate – the crew failed to react until it was too late. Throttles weren’t manually advanced to increase engine thrust and try to climb away from the strip until about two seconds before impact.”
The international newspaper added that recent advances in cockpit automation have contributed to making flying much safer. However, numerous studies have shown that airline pilots’ over-reliance on computerized flight-control systems gradually destroy both manual flying skills and situational awareness in the cockpit.
Asiana and the NTSB declined to comment on the report.
Meanwhile, the NTSB public hearing was supposed to begin on December 10, but was delayed a day because of a heavy snowstorm. The board is scheduled to finalize its investigation on the crash by the end of July 2014.