NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — In the wake of the plane crash that left two Chinese students dead and dozens more injured, experts and pilots have pointed out that San Francisco International Airport can be a challenging place to land.
One complicating factor is that the airport is surrounded by water – just like both John F. Kennedy International and LaGuardia airports.
As CBS 2’s Don Champion reported Monday, online video showed what it is like to approach San Francisco International’s runway 2-8 left – the very runway where Asiana Airlines flight 214 crash landed on Saturday.
Two days later questions remain about how tried and trained pilots could get a landing so wrong.
“There’s a whole punch of things that could go wrong,” said pilot and aviation expert Dan Rose.
He said the San Francisco airport — surrounded by water — does offer a challenge to a pilot.
“When you’re at a distance and you’re over water, it’s a little bit harder to judge if you’re in the right position,” Rose said.
In New York City, Rose called LaGuardia the most difficult airport for landing. From Chopper 2 HD, it is apparent how much water pilots fly over to land.
Beyond that, the crowded airspace and maneuvers needed to land make it an even more challenging airport.
“There’s not time for not knowing what you want to do and not being prepared,” Rose said.
To prove that point, Rose watched cockpit video of a landing at the airport. The pilot must make quick and constant turns to line up with the main runway.
“They’re going through the last-minute checklist — making sure the flaps are in the final landing position — and really, here, you’re just focusing in on lining up properly on the extended runway.”
All the while, pilots have to maintain the right airspeed and altitude.
And the difficulty doesn’t end there. The runway at LaGuardia is only 6,000 feet long — well under the average runway length of 9,000 feet.
It already has been extended once, but still can’t be used by larger planes.
“It’s a much shorter runway,” Rose said, “There’s much less room for error.”
Pilots can use autopilot at times during landing, but especially at LaGuardia, most landings are done manually.
With the complicated landings, the airspace is tightly watched and guarded – with no room for a wrong move.
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