Asiana Boosts Pilot Training Amid San Francisco Crash Review

By Caroline Chen and Kyunghee Park | September 13, 2013

Asiana Airlines Inc., the South Korean carrier whose pilot training is under scrutiny after a fatal crash in San Francisco, said it will expand instruction for air crew and begin an outside review of safety standards.

Pilots will get more hours in flight simulators to prepare for approaches to airports without landing guidance systems, Seoul-based Asiana said yesterday in an e-mailed statement. Asiana said it also will hire another company to evaluate its procedures, add safety specialists and boost maintenance.

Manual flying skills and cockpit teamwork are part of the U.S. probe into the crash of Asiana Flight 214, which struck a seawall short of the San Francisco airport on July 6, killing three people. G.W. “Bo” Corby, a former commercial pilot who is now an industry consultant, said Asiana should take human and cultural considerations into account in whatever it does.

“To really understand what is needed requires an analysis of the current way you’re doing things,” said Corby, vice president of training and standards at Future & Active Pilot Advisors in Florence, Alabama. “The solution may not be to increase the number of training hours, the solution may be to refocus training.”

Asiana climbed 7.9 percent, the most since October 2011, to close at 5,190 won in Seoul. The stock has fallen 16 percent this year, compared with a 0.1 percent decline in the benchmark Kospi index.

43 Hours

Asiana’s move followed through on Chief Executive Officer Yoon Young Doo’s comments on July 9 that South Korea’s second- largest airline would look at strengthening pilot training.

Co-pilot Lee Kang Kuk, who had only 43 hours of experience flying a Boeing Co. 777 model, was using a visual approach the day of the accident because the instrument landing system’s glide slope, which helps line up the correct path to the runway, was closed for construction. Former Asiana pilots and trainers have said in interviews that the company’s pilots were well trained on automatic systems yet rarely flew manually.

The crash was surprising because “a visual approach under good weather conditions is as easy as it gets,” said Cass Howell, associate dean of the college of aviation at Embry- Riddle Aeronautical University. Still, additional practice in takeoffs and landings can’t hurt, especially for pilots who fly long distances, said Howell.

“What ends up happening is that pilots who are otherwise qualified may only have a dozen landings a year,” Howell said. “They accumulate a lot of hours but they are on the low side in terms of approaches and landings.”

It was the first fatal crash in the U.S. of a large jet since 2001, and Asiana’s first such accident since a Boeing 747 cargo plane went down at sea in July 2011.

There was no evidence that the plane’s automated systems malfunctioned, said Deborah Hersman, chairman of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, in a briefing after the accident. The NTSB’s investigation is continuing.

(Editors: James Callan, Stephen West)

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