Mon, Jul 08, 2013 - Page 6 News List

Fatal crash further tarnishes safety record of Asiana

UNHAPPY MEMORIES:Saturday’s tragedy was not the airline’s first, as 66 people died in a botched landing attempt in wind and poor visibility in 1993

Reuters, SEOUL

Asiana Airlines, the South Korean carrier whose Boeing 777 crashed while landing at San Francisco airport on Saturday, had been trying to clean up a tarnished safety record that included two other fatal crashes in its 25-year history.

One of the pilots of flight 214, Lee Jeong-min, is a veteran who has spent his career at Asiana. He was among four pilots on the plane who rotated in two-person shifts during the 10 hour-plus flight, a senior Asiana official said

“The pilot’s name is Lee Jeong-min, and [he is] a veteran pilot with long experience,” said the official, who requested anonymity.

“Our investigation committee is looking into the accident in San Francisco,” he said.

Lee, in his late 40s, had 12,387 hours of flying experience, including 3,220 hours on the Boeing 777, according to the ministry of transport in Seoul.

A second pilot on board the aircraft, Lee Kang-kook, had 9,793 hours flying experience and 43 hours on the 777.

The ministry said earlier that the aircraft’s fuselage appeared to have hit the ground, sending the plane off the runway and causing massive damage to the body of the jet.

Asiana, South Korea’s junior carrier, is a member of the Star Alliance with 91 international passenger routes, 28 cargo and 14 domestic routes. It operates a fleet of 80 aircraft.

Two years ago, one of its 747 cargo jets bound for Shanghai crashed into the sea off South Korea’s Jeju Island after taking off from Incheon airport. Two pilots on board were killed in the crash, which was blamed on mechanical problems.

In 1993, an Asiana domestic flight from Seoul crashed in driving wind and extremely poor visibility in a botched landing attempt, killing 66 people and injuring 44.

An inquiry found pilot error was the cause of that crash when the plane began a descent while it was still passing over a mountain peak.

Asiana was founded in 1988 by the Kumho Asiana transport and construction conglomerate at a time when South Korea wanted to boost its international appeal as an emerging economic power.

It launched its first international route two years later with flights to Tokyo and Hong Kong, then added flights to Southeast Asia and Los Angeles the following year, gradually expanding destinations to Europe and the Americas.

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