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Published on Thursday, July 11, 2013

Pilots hit out at crash investigators

Pilots have reacted with anger at details from the onboard recorders from Asiana Flight 214 being released to the media, claiming crash investigators appear to be pointing a finger at the pilot of the South Korean jet which crashed on landing at San Francisco airport, killing two passengers.

The Air Line Pilots Association released a statement saying it was "stunned by the amount of detailed operational data from on-board recorders released by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) this soon into the investigation".

It added: "It is imperative that safety investigators refrain from prematurely releasing the information from on-board recording devices.

"We have seen in the past that publicising this data before all of it can be collected and analysed leads to erroneous conclusions that can actually interfere with the investigative process."

So far, crash investigators have revealed that the pilot of the Boeing 777, Lee Kang-Koo, was in training on the aircraft, had only 43 hours experience on that particular type, and was landing at San Francisco's airport for the first time.

Lee Jung-Min, his training captain, had only been certified as a training supervisor less than a month before the crash.

The NTSB also revealed to the media that the plane's cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder indicated that there were no signs of trouble until seven seconds before impact, when the crew tried to accelerate.

Chairwoman of the US National Transportation Safety Board Deborah Hersman said a stall warning, in which the cockpit controls begin to shake, activated four seconds before impact, and the crew tried to abort the landing 1.5 seconds before crashing.

She also said the evacuation was delayed because the pilots initially said passengers should stay put.

This meant the evacuation began 90 seconds after the 777 skidded to a halt, and only after one of the cabin crew spotted fire outside, she said.

"It seems a little unusual that the crew would not announce an order to evacuate after a plane crash," she told a press conference yesterday. "We don't know what the pilots were thinking."

Hersman said the pilot later told investigators he was blinded by a light at about 500ft, which would have been about 34 seconds before impact.

She said investigators had not ruled out that the flash might have been caused by a laser.

But ALPA said it was wrong to tell the media these pieces of information at this early stage.

"Releasing pieces of the conversation out of context encourages wild speculation, as we have already seen in the media, about causes of the accident before all the facts are known, before investigators have the ability to determine why the events occurred, and in this case before the flight crew had even been interviewed…and creates the impression that the NTSB has already determined probable cause even before the investigation has started," said ALPA.

The pilots implored that information not be "sensationalised by the media for the purpose of a few headlines".

Only last month, Asiana Airlines was named as one of the world's safest airlines by the ratings website, despite the fact it has suffered two other fatal crashes in its 25-year history.

The website, run by Australian aviation editor and author Geoffrey Thomas, said it had "forensically" researched airlines over the last two years. See his further comment below.

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  • Fairer System

    Isn't there a fairer assessment of airlines safety record by taking the reasons of crash into consideration when determining safety records? A crash is a crash granted but if that crash was merely caused by an engines, hydraulic, electrical or electronic etc malfunction vis a vis a serious human error of judgement, surely there should have been a weighting factor that places such airline much lower in the safety line-up so that it will hurt them commercially until such procedures and or technical skills are uplifted back into line again. Otherwise it is just a numbers report. Not much for me, thanks.

    By RICK MYATT, Monday, July 22, 2013

  • So what?

    you guys are so pathetic....a few people have wastefully died already regardless of whatever the cause was..the fact remained clear that the airliner ran short of the runway and hit the rocks at the edge. So no point blaming to those who are merely releasing the factual information in a hope to keep the relevant parties (there are many families involved) up to date. So if that appeared to have finger pointed..I guess its tough! Think about the trauma and despair of the innocent people who entrusted their lives to you to take care of...I'd say NTSB go for it!

    By RICK MYATT, Monday, July 22, 2013

  • Airline Ratings Response

    Please allow me to comment on our ratings system. Asiana has had ONE passenger aircraft crash in 1993. The more recent 2011 accident involved a 747 Freighter and the cargo caught fire which was NOT the airlines fault. Our rating system goes back 10 years for fatalities as it is almost meaningless to look back further as so much has changed in aviation. Also can you compare an airline that started three years ago and has a prefect record with one that started 30 years ago and had a crash 29 years ago? Take Qantas. No fatalities since the mid we count those? We believe our system is the fairest and most accurate available but of course NO rating system is perfect and we acknowledge that. Regards, Geoffrey Thomas

    By Geoffrey Thomas, Friday, July 12, 2013

  • That's what they do

    Gotta laugh when folks accuse investigators of 'pointing fingers'. It's what they do.

    By David Chapman, Thursday, July 11, 2013

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