Former airline captain Chesley "Sulley" Sullenberger told KCBS in an interview Saturday afternoon that the runway construction that's being done at San Francisco International Airport will likely be examined as a possible factor in Saturday's crash of Asiana Flight 214.
Sullenberger, famous for saving a planeload of people by landing a crippled jet on the Hudson River in New York City, told KCBS in a phone interview that the construction, mandated by the FAA, is intended to increase the safety zone by moving the runway landing area farther away from the water and from the rock wall near where the crash occurred — essentially to prevent incidents exactly like Saturday's.
But due to the construction, ground guidance systems for pilots have been shut down, requiring pilots to rely on sight and not on electronics that provide an automated warning system.
"It's too early to say if that is going to be a factor in this case, but it certainly is something they'd be looking at," said Sullenberger, a Danville resident.
According to a 2005 Federal Aviation Administration guideline, older airports needed to extend their runway safety areas to make them "suitable for all types of airplane operations." The SFO construction report released in July 2011 showed that the airport's runways suited air crafts like the Boeing 757 and 747 but didn't list the 777.
SFO started to comply with the federal guidelines in 2012 and planned to complete construction by 2015. Part of the construction includes adding porous concrete at the end of the runways that would absorb the impact of an airplane if necessary, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
Sullenberger said an investigation into an incident like Saturday's will take more than a year.
He said a pilot's goal is always to fly an airplane as far into an accident sequence as possible, to minimize injuries to passengers and on the ground but said that it's unlikely the pilots had much control after the plane hit the ground.
"It's likely, from what I've seen in photographs and videotapes, that the control of the airplane once it hit the ground was fairly limited," Sullenberger said. There was not a lot they could do to affect the outcome at this point."