“We just seemed to be flying in way too low. Last couple seconds before it happened the engines really revved into high gear. Just waaah! Like the captain was saying ‘oh no, we gotta get out of here.’ And then, boom! The back end just lifted up, just really jolted everybody in their seats,” said crash survivor Elliot Stone, who owns a martial arts studio in Scotts Valley.
Asked if the autothrottle was malfunctioning, Hersman said that is something investigators are looking into as they examine hundreds of parameters of data downloaded from the plane’s flight data recorders.
An overreliance on automated cockpit systems has figured in dozens of air crashes and incidents in recent years.
“Some people, if they believe the autothrottles are engaged and if they are used to flying with the autothrottle engaged, will not realize that the autothrottles are not engaged and will let the plane get pretty slow. That has come up before,” said John Cox, an aviation safety consult and former Air Line Pilots Association accident investigator.
Hersman said the pilots told investigators they were relying on automated cockpit equipment to control their speed during final approach, but NTSB officials say it is still unknown whether a mistake was made in programming the “autothrottle” or if the equipment malfunctioned.