A veteran airline pilot with thirty-five years of experience, including many flights into San Francisco International Airport (SFO), has told Breitbart News that “wake turbulence,” in combination with pilot error, could have caused Asiana Airlines Flight 214 to crash on Saturday, killing two passengers and injuring dozens.
Wake turbulence is caused by a heavy aircraft, resulting from the displacement of air over the wings.
In an exclusive interview with Breitbart News, former Captain Ted White explained how wake turbulence could have contributed to the the Asiana crash, causing pilots to lose control on final approach.
“It is possible that another heavy aircraft could have landed on the adjacent runway just ahead of them, and the light wind could have carried the turbulence over. It’s basically like a little tornado.”
A small commuter aircraft that landed ahead of the Asiana flight had encountered such turbulence on landing, he said, citing news reports.
In addition, White said, given that the ground-based instrument landing system (ILS) was not operational at SFO, the Asiana pilots could have substituted the manual flight guidance system for vertical guidance in determining the altitude of the Boeing 777.
That, in turn, could have caused them to mistake the manual glide path it for the electronic ILS glide slope, leading them to approach the runway at too low an altitude.
“You can set the flight guidance system manually to give the airplane a glide slope, and then that will capture the electronic glide slope, which will guide you down,” White said. “But if the ground-based ILS is off, you can go down right through that glide path, and realize too late that you are too low. If there was wake turbulence as well, that would have been enough to stop them from being able to correct their too-steep descent.”
“The visual approach lights were also shut down,” he added. “That’s a really bad combination.”
Capt. White, who retired in June 2012 from Hawaiian Airlines, told Breitbart News that such an error could easily have happened.
“In my flying career, I’ve recognized there are several traps that can happen to a pilot even in the best of conditions. You can let your guard down when it’s a clear day and everything seems good.
“It’s one of the traps that you can easily get into, especially after a long international flight, after the time zone changes. Sometimes pilots can forget that the ILS isn’t working, after you’ve flown into so many airports. That’s not an excuse, but it’s reality. Once you’ve set the flight to manual, you can forget–you will go right into the ground thinking you’re obeying the right commands if you do not have situational awareness.”
Officials are examining the possibility of pilot error, but are still open to other explanations.
“Everything is on the table right now. It is too early to rule anything out,” National Transportation Safety Board investigators told a news conference on Sunday afternoon, praising the first responders who attended to the injured.