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From confusion to heroism

Ben Levy speaks about being aboard Asiana Flight 214, which crashed on Saturday, July 6, 2013, at San Francisco International Airport, during an interview at his office in San Francisco, Tuesday, July 9, 2013. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

The latest revelation about Flight 214 – is that according to NTSB chair Deborah Hersman, the pilots said they had dialed in the correct landing speed on the automatic throttle control.

“They had set the speed at 137 knots and he assumed that the throttles were maintaining speed,” explained Herman.

The pilot “assumed” the automatic throttle was maintaining speed. “Assumed.” The clear implication is that the computers which were designed to prevent human error may have enabled it.

Now contrast the confusion in the cockpit before the crash with what we’re hearing about the cabin crew after the crash. In those few seconds when it dawned on everyone that they’d just survived a major disaster, the remaining cabin crew – and those passengers well enough to help – weren’t at all confused about what to do. Which brings us to Ben Levy, a passenger in the exit row.

“We were left to ourselves, basically, to figure it out,” said Levy.

And he did figure it out. “I just started saying, ‘We’re going to be OK. We’re going to be OK. We need to get out of here quick. Leave everything behind. Help each other. Get out, get out, get out.'”

And don’t call him a hero, says Levy. “It’s not one person saving the world. I think it’s about every single action you can take together to combine to create this real, heroic event.”

A catastrophe that even the most sophisticated computers couldn’t prevent – saved by human resilience.

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