Retired pilot reacts to San Francisco plane crash

All passengers now accounted for after crash kills 2

By Ashley Harding - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A retired pilot speaks with Channel 4 after two people were killed after a Boeing 777 from South Korea crashed Saturday upon landing at San Francisco's airport.

As a retired pilot for American Airlines, Captain Warren Rauhofer knows what it's like to be responsible for the lives of hundreds of everyday travelers.

"Every accident and every incident has a different shade of what happened," said Rauhofer. "Hey, these people are in my airplane and I'm going to move Heaven and Earth to make this a safe flight."

Rauhofer said he was shocked when he heard that the Boeing triple-seven jetliner crashed and burst into flames at the San Francisco International Airport.
Its tail ripped off and most of the plane's top was burned off.

If you can't imagine being inside the plane, Elliot Stone knows, as he was on board.

"We were like ten seconds away from being home," said Stone. "It seemed like we were a little bit high and we could see the tarmac below us, and so we were coming down kind of sharp, and then right when it started to coast for the landing all of a sudden, the engine was all like he sped up, like the pilot knew he was short. Then, the back end just hit and flies up in the air and everybody's head goes up to the ceiling. Then we just kind of drift a little bit, probably a good 300 yards then tips over."

Rauhofer believes that pilot most likely landed short of the runway.

"You lose a certain amount of directional control," said Rauhofer. "Of course, when the main gear went from the dirt in front of the runway to the runway, one of the gears was sheared off, I think."

Rauhofer believes many people were able to get off before the right engine ignited the fuel. He said if that didn't happen, things would have been much worse.

"Normally when a fuel tank ruptures, the airplane is moving and the hot engines are flying around. You see just a big ball of fire," said Rauhofer.

The pictures and video of the aftermath of Saturday's plane crash in San Francisco were incredible, and it's a sight very real for Rauhofer.

"We're trained for the accident. We're trained for the abnormals when an engine or something fails or something like that," said Rauhofer. "That's what the crew is trained for. The flight attendants are trained to get the people out of the plane ASAP."

Rauhofer said he knows what it's like to have a scary moment in the sky.

"Hit the tail on the seawall. Tail comes off, you got parts and everything else," said Rauhofer. "He then lands short because when you hit the tail, you slow down a bit, right? It's like your car."

From there, he believes the pilot lost control. For those on board, those brief moments were terrifying.

An investigation into the accident is now underway. Rauhofer said it could have been much worse and it'll be awhile before we know much of anything.

"They could recover the voice recorder and find out that they had something wrong with the control services. We don't know," said Rauhofer.

Rauhofer wants to reiterate that we don't know for sure yet what happened. This could have been a mechanical error or pilot error. Either way, this could have been worse.

Rauhofer also credits the crew with helping to get so many passengers off. Again, the investigation into the cause of the crash is now underway.

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