Asiana Airlines says the pilot in control of the Boeing 777 that crashed in San Francisco had little experience flying that type of plane and was landing one for the first time at that airport.
Asiana spokeswoman Lee Hyomin said Monday that Lee Gang-guk was trying to get used to the 777 during Saturday's crash landing. She says the pilot had nearly 10,000 hours flying other planes but had only 43 hours on the 777.
This comes after National Transportation and Safety Board officials say the pilots of Asiana Flight 214 were flying too slowly as they approached San Francisco airport, triggering a warning that the jetliner could stall, and then tried to abort the landing seconds before crashing.
The Boeing 777 was traveling at speeds well below the target landing speed of 137 knots per hour, or 157 mph, said NTSBoard chief Deborah Hersman at a briefing Sunday on the crash.
"We're not talking about a few knots," she said, though investigators did not speculate about why it was flying slowly.
Hersman said the aircraft's stick shaker, a piece of safety equipment that warns pilots of an impending stall, went off moments before the crash. The normal response to a stall warning is to increase speed to recover control.
There was an increase several seconds before the crash, she said, basing her comments on an evaluation of the cockpit voice and flight data recorders that contain hundreds of different types of information on what happened to the plane.
And at 1.5 seconds before impact, there was a call for an aborted landing, she said.
The two people who died in the Asiana Airlines plane crash were Chinese schoolgirls, according to Chinese state media.
Ye Mengyuan and Wang Linjia, students at Jiangshan Middle School in eastern China, died in the crash, state broadcaster China Central Television said, citing a fax from the airline to the Jiangshan city government.
The South Korean airline said in a statement that Ye and Wang were both 16.
The Boeing 777 was attempting to land at San Francisco International Airport when it crashed. The plane slammed into the runway on Saturday morning, breaking off its tail and catching fire before slumping to a stop that allowed the lucky ones to flee down emergency slides into thick smoke and a trail of debris.
Firefighters doused the flames that burned through the fuselage with foam and water, and police officers on the ground threw utility knives up to crew members so they could cut the seat belts of those who remained trapped as rescue crews removed the injured.
The dramatic rescue aftermath was captured on live television as passengers tried to escape and rescue teams moved in.
Officials said 182 people were taken to area hospitals. There were 307 people on board Asiana Airlines Flight 214.
Of the 291 passengers onboard, 141 were Chinese. At least 70 Chinese students and teachers were on the plane heading to summer camps, according to education authorities in China.
"I saw it come in. The tail was very low and when it hit – sparks flew," said one witness.
Intense fire ripped through the cabin leaving the top of the plane charred. Audio from the control tower captured the rush to get rescue teams to the site.
"Asiana … we have everyone on the way."
The Asiana Airlines flight was landing after a 10-hour trip from Seoul, South Korea. Robert Andrighetto's wife and daughter were on board. Like many passengers they escaped on an evacuation slide.
"Everything was going fine as they were touching down," said Andrighetto. My daughter called me just after the accident, she said that it seemed like they overshot the runway a little bit and came down hard on the front tire."
Several witnesses were saying the aircraft may have struck a seawall near the runway as it made its decent. Aviation expert J.P. Tristani says it does not appear the pilot made any distress calls about mechanical problems before the crash.
"My speculation is he flew too low and flew into the ground," said Tristani.
The plane came to rest on its belly several feet from the runway. Debris, bits and pieces could be seen everywhere. Area hospitals scrambled treating patients including several children for burns and broken bones.
One man's son is among the survivors.
A father of a 19-year-old almost died in a crash, that's pretty scary."
"We're deeply saddened by this incident. Our hearts and our friends and families of all those affected," said San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee. "This is still a fluid and active scene. Not everyone has yet to be accounted for."
Among those who were on board, New Yorker and Samsung Executive David Eun who on his twitter he wrote.
"Fire and rescue people all over the place. They're evacuating the injured. Haven't felt this way since 9/11. Trying to help people stay calm – deep breaths."
San Francisco Fire Department Chief Joanne Hayes-White said the two 16-year-old girls from China who died were found on either side of the plane. Investigators are trying to determine whether they were alive or dead when rescuers reached the scene.
The Associated Press contributed to this report