tv The Situation Room CNN July 6, 2013 3:00pm-4:01pm PDT
provide additional information. are there any other questions? the question is, is this a relative new aircraft? this is a boeing triple 7. i mentioned boeing will likely be one of the parties to our investigation and we work very closely with those who have expertise to bring that to the investigation. the triple 7 has been around for a while. carrying several hundred passengers. we'll certainly be looking at everything when we get there. we have not determined what the focus of the investigation is yet. we have to get on scene to really begin to collect the factual information to do the documentation and to draw on our experts. we'll be putting together information while enroute. one more question. the question is, is there any chance this is pilot error? as i said before we haven't left washington yet. we still have a lot of work to do. we will be looking at everything. everything is on the table at this point. we have to gather the facts
before we reach any conclusions. ntsb's investigations are very thorough and we will gather information and provide that information to the media as soon as possible. thank all very much. >> okay. that is a briefing that we have been awaiting from the ntsb and of course ntsb saying, not giving very much information. of course robert francis former ntsb chairman right about that. they talked about where the plane was landing. that it was a boeing 777. asiana flight 214. took off from seoul as we had been reporting enroute to san francisco. runway 28 l it was supposed to land but made the crash landing tlchlt they said they are working now enroute and are in their way to san francisco and are working in conjunction with their counterparts in korea to find out what is going on and boeing will likely be part of the investigation as well. robert francis, if you could
hear me this time, former ntsb vice chairman and investigator, you heard that press conference. that's about what you thought would come out of that press conference, right? >> exactly. oops. i just lost you. >> okay. we'll get back to you. thank you very much for that. it's the top of the hour. we want to update our viewers now. >> i'm don lemon. live in new york here i want to update our viewers on what is going on. i welcome our viewers in the united states watching around the world, watching cnn international and also other net works. it is our breaking news here on cnn. a boeing 777 on a flight from south korea crash landed today at the san francisco airport. 291 passengers, 16 crew members were onboard the asiana airlines flight 214. some of the passengers were seen
walking off the plane. we know some are injured but the exact number has not been disclosed. the asiana airlines plane had flown across the pacific from seoul and was preparing to land when something went terribly wrong obviously. the plane crash landed on a runway, we're told runway 28-l. it crash landed there and a fire ball erupted. parts of the plane rocked and broke apart. huge plumes of gray and white smoke rose up. the plane's roof, what is left of it, is now charred with a large, gaping hole. the plane's tale in pieces. as i said, we're still waiting to hear about the injured. we just heard from the national transportation safety board. there were a number of passengers onboard, obviously. some of them were talking about -- are talking now about what they saw and what they felt. this is an eyewitness to the
crash. let's listen. >> i saw it coming and i was just watching planes come in and this one i saw that it looked normal at first. it was taking the same angle that they always come in like this. the wheels were down and then -- about three or five seconds out i started calling to my fiance and said this doesn't look right. this doesn't look right. the wheels were too low too soon. this is the run wway. i was watching the wheels. it hit like that and the whole thing collapsed immediately. it never really had a chance. it was like a really blunt, blunt trauma to the whole plane. it just pancaked immediately.
it collapsed and slid and then started to slide and pivot. it was counterclock wise. then the wings caught on the tarmac there. then they flew off and just about -- the whole inside of the cabin went orange. all right. that was an eyewitness. i want to bring in dr. todd curtis who is an aviation expert and also the founder of air safe.com which has been in existence for how long? >> since 1996. >> you sat and heard the ntsb press conference and also heard from the eyewitnesss to this. it is really soon to speculate as to what happened, but what is your assessment from listening to these folks? >> from listening to the witnesses and looking at some of the footage from san francisco, it appears the aircraft landed short of the runway. there was a debris trail right to the water's edge where the aircraft came to rest. so for whatever reason the aircraft landed maybe a thousand feet, maybe longer, short of the
runway. >> when witnesses say there was -- eunice behr who was on earlier said her father was on the plane and knew it was coming because it looked like the plane was coming in short and the pilot tried to go back into the air very quickly. many people who fly a lot have had mislandings where they overshoot the runway or come in too short. then you get that jolt where the plane goes back in the air. usually it works out. this one if that is indeed the case did not. >> for whatever reason. again, this is entirely premature to speculate. but they did land substantially short of the runway. and the way jet engines work and aircraft respond even if the pilot had put on extra thrust several seconds before impact it may not have been intact. >> people are asking, have been asking where and we're looking at these pictures now from our affiliate kpix out there. you see the number of people who are on this tarmac now and trying to figure out exactly
what went wrong. i would imagine all the passengers are off the plane now. >> we hope. >> and you've heard from the people in the tower as well speaking 214 heavy. most people at home don't know what that means. explain to us what happened in this particular situation, what might happen in the control tower. >> calling the 214 heavy is fairly routine. it depends on the size of the aircraft. we should read nothing into that. as far as what air traffic controllers could do at that point it is all in the hands of the flight crew. the air traffic controllers may be able to give them some feedback that they see the aircraft coming in at an unusually shallow angle or too low. this is the situation where the best situation is in the cockpit. >> people are asking where is the tail? where is that other engine? >> as you see from some of the photos there was quite a bit of a debris trail going back to the water's edge. early in that debris trail you
saw what appeared to be the vertical fin, the tail as two horizontal stablizers and also the rear bulkhead at the rear of the fuselage was ruptured. it would appear as though the back end of the aircraft disintegrated after impact. one of the engines appeared to be broken off. as for the second i couldn't tell for sure where it was. >> if you listen to asiana airlines and the reporters say only five or six such incidents in recent history. is that a good safety record? >> zero is a great safety record. in the case of the 77 in the case of the 777 there was an incident similar. in that event it was a variety of factors that led to that in heathrow and no one was killed but it is entirely premature to say whether this has anything to do directly related to that event or past accidents. they will take time. >> okay. pardon me while i read this.
out of the 291 passengers onboard the flight, flight 214, 61 of them i'm being told were americans. 77 of the passengers south korean, 114 chinese, and one is japanese. we also have a statement from san francisco general hospital from the trauma center there. as of 2:00 p.m. sfgh, san francisco general hospital has received six female and four male patients for a total of ten patients from the asiana airlines incident. there are eight adults and two children. the adults range in age from 20 to 40 years old. all patients are in critical condition. in order to increase the capacity for more patients we are expected to be transported to sfgh tents have been set up outside the hospital emergency department to accommodate both walk-in emergency patients and to care for additional patients
from the crash whose injuries may not require trauma level care. san francisco general hospital is the only trauma center in san francisco. at this time, the number of additional patients from the airline incident is unknown. this is still unfolding. for something of this capacity and magnitude when you look at that you expect injuries here? >> well, given the state of the aircraft it is not surprising. given the fact we had a large capacity aircraft crash it is also normal for hospitals in the major metropolitan area to respond this way. this is a mass casualty type event. airports around the country have periodic drills where hospitals, fire departments, police departments, airport personnel basically run through an exercise what if we had a large accident here, what would we do? i would say many people involved here especially organizations like the hospital are falling back on time-tested procedures. >> all right. stand by. thank you very much for coming in on a saturday afternoon, an
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breaking news here on cnn. we're following on the story that's happening in san francisco a large commercial plane has crash landed on the runway there and we are awaiting word to find out exactly how many folks are injured. we know 291 passengers were onboard that plane and we're hearing many have been transported to the hospital. as a matter of fact, san francisco general hospital has said that they have received six female patients, four male patients, a total of ten patients from the asiana airline incident. there are eight adults, two children, the adults range in age from 20s to 40s.
all patients they say are in critical condition at this point. this is a news conference and now this is going to happen at san francisco international airport at any moment. we expect city officials as well as airline officials to take part in that particular press conference when it happens. just a short time ago we heard from the national transportation safety board in washington. all they would say was confirm the information that we have been reporting to you here all afternoon and evening on cnn. flight 214 the asiana flight, boeing 777 from seoul, south korea to san francisco. crash landing on runway 28-l. crashed upon landing. they are saying they're working with their counterparts in korea to deal with this and also they said that they are expecting boeing to be a participant in the investigation as well. they're sending their teams there and they will regroup as soon as they get more information.
again, a press conference, news conference about to begin at the san francisco airport. there it is. we expect the mayor as well as other officials from the city and the airlines and airport to take part in this particular press conference. richard quest is in london. first to richard quest before we get to washington where we have rene marsh who is following the investigation for us here in the united states. first to richard quest. richard, you heard the press conference. there for the ntsb in washington saying that they're sending their team is on the way but it is too early to speculate. >> what happens of course is the go team as it is known will go from the ntsb. the airline -- aircraft manufacturer, boeing, will have its own representatives, which will also be on their own go team. pratt & whitney will have a go team. they are the manufacturers.
asiana will have a team. everybody in some way involved in this airline or this aircraft will have a team of people on their way to san francisco at the moment. and of course various international organizations will then become accredit to the investigation in the future. let's look at the picture of the aircraft. as you're seeing it at the moment but in the positioning as it is between the two runways. you say it was coming in for an approach or landing on 28-l. the l stands for left. san francisco has the 28 left and 28 right. those are the two sort of runways that go out toward the ocean. the aircraft was coming in for a landing on 28 left and from what you can see from the pictures it clearly landed in what's known as the displaced runway zone. that's before the piano keys if you like, the threshold part. that of course is where the plane then started to break up. just spinning around as it would
appear to be again looking at the pictures and ending on the -- in the medium between 28 left and 28 right. what we are now hearing of course from the hospital, those casualty numbers that you mentioned, we know people got off the plane and we see many people running away from the aircraft and those who are taking photographs and tweeting them thereafter. but the size and severity of the fire that destroyed the upper fuselage, removing the tail at the same time, that does suggest that this is going to be in the high end and it would not -- we're talking about some serious injuries if not loss of life as well. >> richard, stand by. i would like to get you and dr. todd curtis here. you know a lot about the airline industry and the 777. air safe.com is a founder of that and also an aviation
expert. we are hearing all of these reports here and you see the debris strewn apart. you are saying it is possible some of the debris is now in the water. >> it's possible because there were clearly pieces right up to the edge of the water. >> what does that mean for the black boxes, the cockpit recorders, all of that? >> well, the area of the aircraft where those boxes usually are didn't look to be particularly destroyed by fire so it is very likely those boxes are still intact and the data is still intact. there may be other boxes other than the standard cockpit voice recorder and digital flight data recorder that could be having maintenance data and other data from the aircraft. >> talk to us a little bit more about the 777. here is some of the information on that. there are a lot of passengers that can fly on that plane between 305 and 340 passengers depending how it is configured. it can cross oceans.
obviously the newer models can fly more than 8,000 nautical miles without stopping to refuel. it cruises about 43,000 feet. were there ever many issues with the triple 7? >> nothing that is in the league we're talking about today. if you go back to 1990 when it came into service there was the usual teething problems but since then we've had the triple 7, 200. we've had the er. we've had the lr, the 300. we are now on the triple 7 300 er. the one that crashed today was a 200. er standing for extended range. more than 1400 have been sold. if you look at the u.s. aviation fleet, if you look at united, look at delta, american particularly american and
united, the back bone of that long haul aircraft is the triple 7. it has an excellent safety record. if we talk about incidents with the triple seven probably the most serious before this was the british airways incident where the plane lost power on its approach to london heathrow and crashed. just before it glided in for the last half mile or so short of the runway. on that occasion and before everybody starts to draw similarities it was entirely because of a problem with icing in the fuel system which has since been well rectified and dealt with. anyone who wants to refer to the british airways 777 incident several years ago i think is not going to be relevant in this case. certainly looking again at the pictures we're seeing, that is an excellent picture at the
moment because here you see 28 left and 28 right. anybody who's flown into san francisco knows well you really do feel like you might land on the water. you are of course a hundred or two above before you go over the arrows and then over the threshold before the plane flies and what's happened here is for whatever reason the pilot has put the aircraft down or the plane has come down short of the threshold landing in the displaced part. not on the center line. and then spinning around having lost the tail ending up in the middle. very similar to landing as you would know at laguardia airport for the viewers in the united states. >> one difference. at the laguardia airport with the pontoons but yes on the other runway certainly. washington national, reagan national is a, perhaps, where you actually do get the airport, the runway going right away to
the water's edge as you come in off the bank. certainly you are on one of the approaches. >> richard quest, stand by. again as i tell our viewers waiting for a press conference at the san francisco international airport we will have that on the other side of a very quick break. we know it's your most important videoconference of the day. hi! hi, buddy! that's why the free wifi and hot breakfast are something to smile about. book a great getaway now and feel the hamptonality
let's listen in. >> go ahead. >> i don't know of any deaths here. i have no information on deaths here. yes? [ question inaudible ] >> i can't go into that right now. i don't have any information other than what i've given you all. so i am going to stop now and i'll be back at 4:00. you can call the media hotline hourly and the e-mail and i'll keep churning out this information. as long as we have new developments all day every hour. at the point where we aren't going to have new developments i'll let you know that will be the last update. okay? thank you. >> okay. that was a press conference for san francisco general hospital. basically someone giving us the same information they gave us
earlier. inc. it is important to point out she said she had no information about any deaths there at san francisco general. what she did say earlier at the press conference confirming earlier that san francisco general hospital has received six female and four male patients for a total of ten patients from the asiana incident there are eight adults and two children. the adults range in age from 20s to 40s. all the patients are in critical condition. as we look at the shot on the left that is san francisco general hospital. obviously the shot on the right is that plane that crash landed at san francisco international airport. and at that airport we are awaiting a press conference from city officials and airline officials. it should happen at any moment now. there they are. right there. the reporters are in the room. and as soon as we get more information on that as soon as they approach those microphones we will bring you that news
conference live. to washington now and cnn's rene marsh who are following the developments from the national transportation safety board as well as the faa. rene, what do you have for us? >> well, don, our transportation team just digging up some more information about this airline. asiana airlines. we can tell you that this is the fifth incident or crash involving this particular airline. the company was founded in 1988 and just forgive me, the source of this was the aviation safety network which simply compiles the information from both the ntsb and faa reports. in the case of this particular airline again five incidents in the past. four of the incidents occurred in asia and of course the one that happened today happened today in the united states. this is the first incident or crash in the united states as it relates to this specific
airline. this company was founded back in 1988. that is a track record based on the records again from ntsb and the faa. >> thank you very much. we appreciate that. we'll get back to rene marsh as soon as she gets more information there in washington. we heard from the ntsb a short time ago. we're awaiting a press conference in san francisco from city officials and airline officials as well. robert francis is with us, a former ntsb vice chair and investigator as well. we've heard from the hospital and they told us about their injuries and we're also getting information from the national transportation and safety board. at this point, your assessment? i know you don't want to speculate. you said it's premature to do this. >> i'd say that the thing that pleases me the most is that apparently the number, i don't know whether they're fatalities or not, but given the number of
people on the airplane and the amount of wreckage and the apparent state of the airplane at this point i think it is pretty remarkable that we haven't heard about more people being hurt and perhaps killed. >> so we have seen these line of investigators across the air field and also seen them looking into the water. what are they doing? >> they're looking for pieces of the aircraft, for anything that might have broken off or would give them an idea of what was the first thing that happened? i mean, did the wheels hit the end of the runway? if they did, were pieces being dropped off after that? and where did they land and what were they? >> the news conference from the ntsb was particularly short but
all routine in your estimation? >> absolutely predictable. they said just what they should have said and they didn't say anything they should not have said. with chairman hersman, she is very good and she is going out to the accident and she is articulate and she'll be a very good spokes person. >> she said working with the counterparts in korea to deal with this. what is the counterpart there? what would that be? >> i don't know the name of the organization. but they have an accident -- sort of a counterpart to the ntsb. more probably it's just for aviation, but they will be send ing experts covering the same kinds of parts of the aircraft personnel, pilotage, etcetera, and they will be a party to the
investigation. faa is a party to the investigation. boeing's party, whoever manufactured the aircraft. engines will be a party. there will be a large number of parties to start and then when it's found out perhaps that an engine wasn't an issue then maybe ge or rolls or whoever it is will drop out. but certainly the airline and the korean counterpart to the ntsb. and maybe the korean counterpart to the faa will continue to be parties throughout. >> all right. mr. francis, thank you. we appreciate your expertise. we'll get back to you throughout the evening on cnn. i want to tell our viewers we are awaiting a press conference at the san francisco international airport to begin in just moments. this is live, continuing
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to sha-cool. get it? [ male announcer ] new gold bond powder spray. cool, dry, no mess. stay cool with gold bond. breaking news here on cnn. there you see the plane. live pictures of that plane at san francisco international airport. that is flight 214 from seoul, south korea. the asiana airliner was on its way to san francisco
international airport when it crash landed on runway 28-l. we have the live pictures and will be covering this throughout the evening on cnn. very shortly we are expecting a news conference to take place with the mayor and other city officials as well as airline officials as soon as they step in front of the microphone, up to the podium we'll care u it live on cnn. the worldwide resources of cnn on top of the story for us. in london this evening cnn's richard quest. in washington, cnn's rene marsh. in seoul, south korea diana magne. here in new york with me is dr. todd curtis an aviation expert. also robert francis, an ntsb investigator and the former vice chair of the ntsb. mr. curtis, to you first. i spoke to mr. francis about the people fanned out on the air field looking for he said parts of the airplane and other things as well.
standard operating procedure. >> that is. there is no telling what piece may be critical for the investigation and you want to go out and collect as much as you can before weather, winds, water, what have you makes those pieces hard to find. >> mr. francis, we just heard from san francisco that two runways have been reopened now. does that seem pretty par to you that something of this magnitude, many people would be surprised that the airport would be back up and running even if it's just two runways at this point? >> i think that's normal. they've got delays, major delays already. the runways are separated enough so that they'll be able to use the runways that are, that remain to them. probably the capacity of the airport will be down somewhat obviously they've lost a major runway.
but it's not surprising that they start up again. >> okay. i want to tell our viewers information from san francisco general hospital. they also just held a press conference a short time ago as we await the one from the city in a moment. they said as of 2:00 p.m. which is their time they said san francisco general has received six female and four male patients from the asiana airlines accident. there are eight adults and two children. the adults range in age from 20s to 40s. all patients they said are in critical condition at this hour. here is also what is important to me. they said in order to increase capacity for more patients who are expected to be transported to san francisco general they said tents have been set up outside the hospital emergency department to accommodate both walk-in emergency patients and to care for additional patients from the crash whose injuries may not require trauma level care. san francisco general is the only trauma center in san francisco. the hospital emergency
department and staff are ready to accept more patients as they arrive and at this time the number of additional patients from the airline accident is unknown. so let's talk about all of this. i want to get to cnn's richard quest in london. as we look, richard, at all of this debris on the runways here, runway 28-l we were talking a short time ago about the challenges if any in landing at san francisco international airport. because they land over water, does that present some issue, any particular issue with landing here? >> san francisco has a very long out approach. it's got quite a complicated system because obviously there is a lot of other aviation going up and down the western seaboard. there are other airports nearby as well. substantially no. you go way out. you come around and you come straight back in again.
for those 28 and 28 right. bad weather can sometimes be an influence. san francisco, low fog and the sort of weather they often enjoy or suffer in the bay area. as we know today there were none of those incidents or questions. it was a clear day from everything that we are hearing at the moment. the triple 7 aircraft. let's talk for a second or two about that. it does have an excellent record. when you think that 1400 of them have been ordered. substantially there's only been one or two serious incidents in all the time it has been flying. lots of glitches or things on the way but nothing, absolutely nothing of this sort except perhaps the british airways case in london. to put it in perspective, the press conference you are waiting to hear from the airport will obviously be crucial because we'll get some idea of how the
airport responded. we might get some more information from that particular news conference, don, on the number of casualties or the number of people who at least walked away. i remember the first one of those news conferences i covered. that was in kennedy airport, pan am 103, lockerbie, all those years ago. when you get an incident like this we are looking to get that sort of information of what might happen, how many people were sent to hospital, how many people are still in the airport. what their condition is. and that we will get from that news conference which we are still awaiting to take place. >> i am old enough to remember that. thank you for reminding us. it is perfect timing to bring in and get information about the patients ten patients and they're saying all are in
critical condition. five patients currently being evaluated with no conditions yet. they are expecting 15 additional patients. that is according to a spokesperson there. st. francis memorial hospital, three patients according to a spokesperson there. california pacific medical center. st. luke's campus. five patients. and then at stanford hospital five patients as well. so a number of patients there you can see and it is going to be updated. i'm not going to venture to tell you how many and give you a specific number because again some hospitals say they are expecting additional patients, as many as 15. that is a side of that news conference you're looking at in san francisco. the mayor expected to be there. other local officials as well as airline and airport officials to update us on this particular situation. two runways have been reopened at san francisco international airport. we have to take a quick break but you will get this entire news conference if we have to
we're following breaking news here on cnn. a plane crash at the san francisco international airport and that is the plane that crash landed on approach just over three hours ago in san francisco. it is an asiana airliner. an asiana airplane. a boeing triple 7 on its way from seoul, south korea to the
san francisco international airport when it crash landed. the picture you're looking at now is from someone who was onboard that plane and took that picture as he was leaving the plane to safety. other people on the plane also took pictures as they were leaving. some of the passengers who left the plane said they felt it coming. they thought the landing went down too quickly on approach and just before and landed just before he should have and try to get that airplane back up in the air and that is too late. that is according to the people onboard the plane. no official word yet on what might have caused this crash. that will happen in the days to come. the ntsb holding a press conference saying they are enroute. the go team is there but they are still enroute with the other members of the team to try to figure out exactly what happened here. that is the press conference that is going to happen in san francisco and that is a picture of the room.
you see the podium there, all the microphones, and the reporters and photographers all huddled around awaiting the mayor and other city officials to come out and give the press conference. helping me out here of course i am in new york. richard quest is in london. rene marsh is in washington. dr. todd francis joining me here in new york. he is an aviation expert and also the founder of air safe.com. also in washington is robert francis who is the former vice chairman of the ntsb and investigator and dinah magna is in seoul, south korea. i want to go to robert francis. we've been talking to you and to mr. -- dr. curtis here about the people who are fanned out across the air field still looking for debris although two of the runways at the airport have been
reopened. >> well, the debris is going to be on the territory of the runway that we have. the runways are separated by water. so the debris from this aircraft will not be in a position to interfere with operations on the other runways that they've opened. >> okay. so mr. curtis, dr. curtis i should say, the runways that are opened he says are far enough away where it won't disturb this but there is a lot of blowing and big engines and to reopen this quickly some people may question that. >> well, the san francisco airport has a layout with two parallel runways that cross each other like a giant x. where the debris was it stopped short of where they cross. so it's conceivable they can open up the two crossing runways
without even being close to the debris field. depending on the weather conditions, aircraft size, etcetera, they could be well away from where the problem is. you have your assessment as an aviation expert as to where you see that plane so close to the water. what is your assessment? >> my assessment is for whatever reason, typically that touch down point is several hundred feet past the beginning of the runway. as you saw there was debris past the end of the runway, past the under run area up to the shore line where the water meets the runway, the rocks in the runway. it is possible it could have had pieces of the aircraft very close to the water when it first hit the seawall. >> you are saying nothing -- there is nothing unusual about landing at san francisco's international airport. >> no. on most runways if you have an aerial map there is actually several miles of open water
before you get to the runway end. there are no obstructions, no tall buildings, no radio towers, nothing that would cause the aircraft to turn left or right before that final approach. and it was a relatively decent weather day. they would have had very good visual acquisition of the runway. >> when you're talking about length of runway, as a passenger you know if an airport has a short or long runway just by the way it feels when you, if the plane breaks immediately when you land. you know that runway is shorter. that happens at laguardia and may happen in washington from time to time and other airports throughout the country but san francisco i would imagine would not be the case. >> no. in fact the runway 28 left is just short of two miles long which is one of the longer runways in the united states. runway length would not have been a problem. >> and the weather, we don't know but according to meteorologists the winds weren't high. it was a clear day. and even our dana bash, who was enroute to the airport and came upon the crash, she was going to the airport. she said it's not a cloud in the
sky. >> and if you look at the pictures of the crash and the smoke coming up, you can clearly see the smoke although it was going at a bit of an angle, there was some wind. it was by no means a gale force cross wind or that sort of thing that would have been -- made it dangerous to land. >> okay. stand by everyone. again we're awaiting a press conference that should happen any time here on cnn. it's with the city officials in san francisco as well as other airline experts and airport experts to give us the information on exactly what they know at this point about this horrific crash at the san francisco international airport. details on the other side of this break. ♪ take me into your darkest hour ♪ ♪ and i'll never desert you ♪ ♪ i'll stand by you yeaaaah! yeah. so that's our loyalty program. you're automatically enrolled, and the longer you stay, the more rewards you get. great! oh! ♪ i'll stand by you ♪ won't let nobody hurt you ♪ isn't there a simpler way to explain the loyalty program? yes.
breaking news here on cnn. live pictures now of that airplane, that crash at san francisco international airport earlier today. a boeing triple 7. it is asiana airlines flight number 214 with more than 200 people onboard the plane at the time and at least 16 crew members. they're looking in the water just shy of the runway there to see if they can find any debris and you can see that those
pictures happened earlier. i want to get to patrick smith, who is a pilot air travel columnist and author of cockpit confidential. thank you for joining us. as we await this press conference let's talk a little bit here. you have flown into this airport a number of times i understand. what is it like? >> i have. i've flown into san francisco many times. you know, i don't think the airport is going to turn out to have much or anything to do with this. the arrival pattern that they were flying, the runway they were arriving on, those things shouldn't matter. either an approach is stable and safe or not. you used the words horrific crash to describe this. not to diminish the seriousness but the death toll is somewhere in the low single digits as we know right now.
meanwhile there hasn't been a large scale fatal accident in this country involving a major carrier in 11 years. i'm including that one in this. there is going to be a tendency in the aftermath of this accident to hype things up and really season this as a calamity, but in the bigger perspective, the bigger picture, air travel has never been safer than it is right now. this accident not with standing. there is something like 30,000 commercial flights taking off and landing in the u.s. every day, almost all of them flying successfully and safely. i don't want that to get lost in the followup to this accident. tragic as it was, it was not a major calamity, air disaster as we used to see a lot more frequently in the '70s and '80s and so on. air disasters are much less
frequent now than they were in years past. i think that's lost on a lot of people tends -- tending to -- >> anyone can look at the footage from the airplane and we still don't know how many people are injured or have died. and we haven't reported any deaths here on cnn. >> sure. >> but you can't look at these pictures and describe it any other way but horrific. if i was on this aircraft and if i was watching it, it's horrifying to imagine. and so i understand what you're saying but it is still horrifying any time there is an accident of this magnitude. what happens from here? >> well, about the worst thing we can do right now is start playing fast and loose with what we think caused this accident, because almost always the initial theories turn out to be wrong. we just don't know. and investigations into these sorts of things can go on for months. and it could turn out really to
be almost anything. what i see here as an airline pilot is a plane landing short of the runway. you know, that's not why it crashed. that's the hint that something had gone wrong prior to that. whether it turns out to be weather or some kind of mechanical function remains to be seen. we just don't know. and it is just not a good idea right now to be trying all these possibilities out there because it could be almost anything. >> yeah. that's what everyone -- every person here on cnn has said the same thing. we don't want to speculate as to what happened. and you as well said the same thing, mr. curtis. you said that you believed that it stopped short. it came in short. but it doesn't mean that is the cause of the crash. >> that's correct. >> correct. some sort of engine trouble. and when i say that, again, this is me just talking off the top of my head, by itself it can't cause an airplane to crash but an improper response to one
could. it's unlikely but it could happen. we just don't know. that is something to look at and so are a lot of other things. meanwhile, one thing here --. >> thanks. >> -- a korean airliner. >> patrick smith, thank you very much. we appreciate it. we'll keep you on. stand by. i just want to update our viewers and tell them these are pictures obviously earlier closer to the time when this happened. we want to tell you there is a news conference that will happen at any moment in san francisco. at that news conference will be the police chief, the fire chief, and the mayor of san francisco. they are getting ready now. as soon as they approach that podium we'll bring it to you here on cnn. we do want to tell you though 291 passengers onboard that plane, 16 crew members when it came in and crash landed at san francisco international airport. a number of people have been taken to local hospitals. we'll continue to update you.
in the meantime, i'm don lemon here in new york. i'll step aside for a couple hours so that mr. wolf blitzer can guide you through the next two hours of this breaking news story. we'll see you back here at 9:00 p.m. eastern for special coverage of this crash landing at san francisco international airport. here's wolf. >> don, thanks very much. i'm wolf blitzer here in washington. we welcome our viewers in the united states and around the world. you're watching cnn's special coverage. the breaking news tonight out of san francisco. a boeing 777 has crash landed at the san francisco international airport. witnesses say they saw the plane come in and it appeared to tip. they say the tail hit the ground and then ripped off. one witness says a giant fire ball simply developed from under the plane and the airliner flew into the grass as passengers evacuated and emergency crews rushed in.