Jul 10, 2013

    Crash probe to focus on pilots' interaction

    THE probe into the crash of Asiana Flight 214 will focus on crucial decisions made by the pilot and the oversight he received from a more experienced aviator by his side.

    Asiana Airlines said yesterday that the pilot at the controls lacked experience flying a wide-body 777. He had not landed one at the San Francisco airport where Flight 214 hit a sea wall short of the runway last Saturday, leaving 181 people hospitalised and two people dead.

    Dr Bill Waldock, a professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, said that, while it's not unusual to have a crew member with limited time in a given plane in control, the interaction between the two pilots will be a central focus of the inquiry into the cause of the crash.

    Investigators will probe whether the pilots devoted enough attention to critical details, such as airspeed.

    Asiana said that the pilot was Mr Lee Kang Kuk, 46, who has 9,793 flight hours. Only 43 are on the 777, after he moved up from the narrow-body Boeing 737, and he was making his first trip to San Francisco, the airline said.

    The South Korean Transport Ministry said that the trainer - Mr Lee Jung Min, 49, a Korea Aerospace University graduate who joined Seoul-based Asiana in 1996 - has flown 12,387 hours, with 3,220 on a 777.

    The pilots' communication is pivotal, because typical airline procedure includes having the non-flying pilot report on pivotal data points, such as speed and altitude.

    Asiana chief executive Yoon Young Doo said he would travel to California to meet transport-safety officials and victims, after United States investigators said they had begun questioning the cockpit crew.

    "They are very experienced and competent pilots," he told reporters in Seoul, while adding that South Korea's No. 2 airline would improve its landing-simulation training.