Can Boeing Escape the 777 Crash Blame?


When news broke on Saturday about the first airliner crash in the United States since 2009, almost everyone noticed that Boeing’s (NYSE:BA) name was attached to the headline. The airplane manufacturing company has come under fire for its Dreamliner 787, which has seen a number of major setbacks stretching to January, when it was grounded for three months due to battery problems.

Asiana Airlines’ Flight 214 touched down short of the runway in San Francisco on Saturday, killing two people and injuring more than one hundred and eighty. Witnesses said the plane was too low as it approached the runway and hit the ground before the runway started, causing the tail to break off and the jet to spin out of control. At the time, there were no indications of any problems with the plane or the flight until seven seconds before impact, and it was unclear whether the pilot or mechanical failure was to blame for the accident.

The plane that crashed Saturday was not a Boeing 787: it was a 777, an extremely popular jetliner hailed for its fuel efficiency and ability to transport more than 300 people. According to new reports, thanks to the plane’s engineering design and flame-retardant cabin interior, the fuselage remained mostly intact and the fire was contained, saving lives and minimizing injuries.

Reuters reports that hospitals were especially surprised by the plane’s performance. With images on television showing a plane erupting into flames, they expected many burn victims — but they didn’t see them. Richard Aboulafia, an aerospace analyst at the Teal Group in Virginia, told Reuters: “This, to me, is actually more of a story about tremendous safety. You have this cataclysmic-looking crash where the overwhelming majority of people walk away. This is a very safe plane.”

The plane’s crash is still under investigation, but experts are zeroing in on the navigation system called the glide path. It’s an instrument meant to help pilots make safe descents, but it was turned during the landing in San Francisco on Saturday. The reason for its shutdown has not yet been revealed, and although airlines maintain that pilots are capable of landing without the system’s assistance, experts are eager to discern whether the system’s shutdown played a role in the 777 crash.

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