SFO crews start cleaning plane crash debris, no estimate for reopening of runway

SAN FRANCISCO INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT

The National Transportation Safety Board has control of Runway 28L and it remains closed during the investigation, but airport custodians have been allowed to start cleaning a peripheral area of the runway, airport spokesman Doug Yakel said.

Yakel said investigators have already combed through the outer sections and gave airport staff the OK to begin a partial cleanup.

Crews headed out Tuesday and began picking up small debris.

Yakel said the cleaning process is within the scope of the duties of custodians, who usually work in the terminals.

The debris that is picked up is being thrown out, and does not need to be saved for the investigation, Yakel said.

Yakel called these initial efforts a small element of the entire cleanup operation.

"The big work still lies ahead," he said.

He said the NTSB has indicated that the runway will likely remain closed through the end of this week.

Airport Director John Martin said in a statement today, "The airport's primary goal at this point is to reopen Runway 28L as quickly as possible. I want to thank all of our passengers and our airlines for their patience. We will work round the clock to make all the necessary repairs."

The work that still needs to be done includes cleaning up spilled jet fuel, checking electrical systems, repairing runway lights and fixing damage to the seawall, airport officials said. The FAA will also conduct test flights to re-certify the runway for use.

NTSB probes auto speed controls in SFO crash

This morning investigators searched the interior of the cabin of Asiana flight 214 in a continuing effort to learn what happened after it crash landed at San Francisco International Airport last Saturday. There is also new information about how the automatic controls of the plane may have contributed to the crash.

The chairwoman of the National Transportation Safety Board said their investigation is already having an impact.

"I've been approached at the airport by flight crews, flight attendants about what we are doing. I know that it makes them think twice when they are coming in here about safety," said NTSB Chairwoman Deborah Hersman.

The world's largest pilot unit has criticized Hersman for releasing too much information, too soon. The latest information from investigators is that the pilots thought that their automatic controls, which are similar to car's cruise-control, were monitoring their speed.

"What we identified post-crash is that the auto-throttles were armed. That means that they are available for use. That doesn't necessarily mean that they are active," said Hersman.

The pilots' union is concerned that this will cause people to jump to conclusions about the cause of the crash. Hersman counters that people in the aviation community need this information.

"There are a lot of advocates for a lot of different groups and organizations out there, but we are the advocate for the traveling public. If we can get everyone to just be more vigilant and focus a little bit -- make sure another crew doesn't have an air speed that decays as they are on approach -- that's a good thing," said Hersman.

There is still no estimate when the runway that has been closed for the investigation will reopen. Travelers have been experiencing more delays and cancellations today because of the closure.

Report: Girls who died begged parents to go on trip

There are new details this morning from a parent and teacher of the two 16-year-olds who died.

A Chinese newspaper reporter interviewed the mother of one of the girls. The mom says she originally wasn't going to let her daughter go on the U.S. trip, but the girl begged -- saying if she didn't go, her best friend's parents wouldn't let her go either. Both sets of parents relented. Also, their teacher revealed that one of the girls was originally sitting in the second to last row on the plane, but switched to the last row to be with her friend. There was another girl in between them and that girl only suffered minor injuries.

FAA raises qualification standards for pilots

The FAA is raising the qualification standards for pilots who fly for U.S. airlines. Previously, co-pilots, or first officers as they're known, only needed 250 hours of flight time. The new requirements increase that to 1,500 hours. It also requires them to have an aircraft type rating, which means training and testing specific to the airplanes they fly.

The changes followed a 2009 plane crash near Buffalo, New York, in which 50 people were killed. The rule change was expected to be released this fall. It's unclear whether the FAA released it this week as a result of the Asiana crash.

(ABC7 News reporter Amy Hollyfield and Bay City News contributed to this report)

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