The four pilots flying the Boeing 777 that crashed in San Francisco Saturday have told federal investigative teams that the plane's automatic throttle was to blame for the accident.
During interviews Tuesday with the National Transportation Safety Board, the pilots—three of whom were in the cockpit as the plane went down—said that they had set the automatic throttles (which work like a car's cruise control) to keep up a speed of 137 knots, but that the system had failed to function properly.
But air safety experts are saying that, far from being a good excuse, these claims indicate that the pilots were relying way too heavily on the plane's technology—and that they could have taken manual control of the system at any point.
"Whether it was engaged or not working is almost irrelevant," said a former pilot and an air safety consultant. "The big mystery of Flight 214 is why in God's name did these two pilots sit there and allow the air speed to get so low."
Another aviation consultant, Hans Weber, has said that monitoring the speed of the plane is "the most basic responsibility of the pilot, like breathing in and out."
He added that it looks like "pilots are paying attention to the computer rather than paying attention to the fundamentals."
The Asiana Flight 214 crashed into San Francisco International Airport on Saturday, when it flew in both too slowly and too low, after which the tail struck a sea wall and was ripped off the rear of the aircraft. The plane then went into 360-degree spin before slamming into the runway.
The accident killed two teenage girls, and injured hundreds more.
Apparently, because U.S. regulations don't cover foreign licensed pilots, none of the crew was tested for drugs or alcohol after the crash. .