HIROSHIMA - An Asiana Airlines plane was most likely operating normally until the final minute before its botched landing on Tuesday night at Hiroshima Airport in Mihara, Hiroshima Prefecture, according to sources at the transport ministry.
To determine the accident's cause, the Japan Transport Safety Board is investigating how and why the altitude of the aircraft - which was traveling from Incheon International Airport in South Korea - dropped so sharply before its landing.
The Airbus A320, which was carrying 81 people, including passengers and crew, received permission to make a landing from the airport's air traffic controller five minutes before it actually touched down, the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry said. Even after receiving permission, the plane continued communicating with the air traffic controller on the local weather and other conditions. However, the flight did not report any abnormalities up to the final minute before the landing attempt, nor did the controller detect any particular problems.
The Asiana aircraft then approached the runaway at an altitude 30 meters lower than usual. In the process, it hit the 6.4-meter-tall radio antennas used to transmit messages to incoming planes, which are located about 325 meters from the runway's edge.
Since the plane usually decelerates to about 200 meters per minute in preparation for landing, the ministry and others estimate that its altitude was about 200 meters above the runaway about a minute before the landing attempt.
The transport safety board has been interviewing the pilot and other relevant parties. On Thursday morning, it started to analyse data on altitude, speed and other factors, tracked by the plane's flight recorder as well as conversations in the cockpit stored on the voice recorder. It is investigating such conditions as the aircraft's movement shortly before the landing and the operating status of the aircraft's warning equipment.