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Asiana 214...NTSB investigation
« on: December 12, 2013, 02:42:13 am »
I am watching the NTSB hearings about the accident and have thus far found a few things concerning.  ALL of the Asiana witnesses--captains, no less--none of whom is going to be the actual pilots who flew OZ 214 can answer the panel's questions unassisted by a translator.  Outside of the translators, the only Korean who attempted to speak to the panel in English was an Asiana executive (he may have been an attorney).  Otherwise, none of the pilots had a respectable command of English.  Not one.  That's a tad bit distressing.  These are men who are charged with understanding complex ATC and international aviation authority language.  However, the pattern is very clear, very quickly, and it's not a pattern unique to Korean airlines (look no further than AF447)--automation is preventing pilots from learning to do what a pilot should do, which is FLY THE AIRPLANE! 

During the hearings the Korean contingent, particularly the Asiana Pilots Union, persistently tried to make an argument that Boeing training or "defective" auto-throttle systems, not pilot over-reliance on automation or lack of "stick and rudder" skills is to be blamed for the tragedy of OZ 214.  It was painful to watch Koreans with limited English ask complex questions to English-speaking pilots only to pretend to understand the answers they were given.  It's more likely they will review a translated transcript of the hearing for clarification.  I had to wonder, is this what it's like at the UN?  Not simply for Koreans, but for all non-native English speaking nations?  Such an arduous process.

This Guardian article brings a few other disturbing things to light:

"Lee Kang Kuk, a 46-year-old pilot who was landing the big jet for his first time at San Francisco, "stated it was very difficult to perform a visual approach with a heavy airplane." The jet crash landed after approaching low and slow in an accident that left three dead and more than 200 injured, according to the National Transportation Safety Board." (emphasis added)

This is a pilot who flies 747's.  From what I've read, any pilot worth his or her salt, shouldn't be disturbed by the prospect of making a visual approach if they're trained in fundamentals.  The Triple 7 is not any smaller than a B747, and yet, the pilot expresses his lack of confidence. 

"When asked if he was concerned about his ability to perform the visual approach, Lee said "'very concerned, yeah.'"

This part was disturbing, but the following, I found even more disturbing. 

"Lee said he told his instructors about his concerns in the flight's planning stages. He told investigators that as he realized his approach was off, he was worried he might "fail his flight and would be embarrassed." (emphasis added)

So this pilot was wiling to risk the lives of hundreds of people because he didn't want to be "embarrassed?" 

"Another Asiana pilot who recently flew with Lee told investigators that he was not sure if the trainee captain was making normal progress and that he did not perform well during a trip two days before the accident. That captain described Lee as "not well organized or prepared," according to the investigative report." (emphasis added)

But let's just keep moving him right along...So what if he's showing less than stellar progress. 

"Lee insisted in interviews that he had been blinded during a critical instant before the botched landing by a piercing light from outside the aircraft. NTSB investigators repeatedly probed him about the light but the trainee pilot was unable to pinpoint its origin or how it precisely affected him.

An instructor pilot said he never saw a bright light outside the aircraft."

Was there any light?  If I had any money to bet, I'd bet no.  Also, I'd read in another article that when this pilot kept focusing on this mysterious light, investigators asked him why he didn't wear sunglasses (though I'm not quite sure I understand how sunglasses would help with a blinding light, if there was one), and Lee's response was that it was disrespectful to wear sunglasses with higher ranking pilots in the cockpit. 

Still, there are some very real concerns about the design of this aircraft, considering that it is so widely used and considered to be one of the safest in the skies.  I've flown in the Triple 7 numerous times and find her to be a trustworthy bird, but if there are real concerns about the alert systems for stall warnings, that most certainly needs to be addressed.  Still, I read a few other articles indicating that there was a sink rate callout (though whether it was vigorous enough or not is still up for debate) and cockpit warnings which should have alerted a pilot to the poor state of their approach. 

I remain willing to fly and am the first to acknowledge all airlines, regardless of their country of origin, face significant challenges in ensuring that pilots are indeed prepared to take the helm and not just make inputs.  After all, people's lives are at stake. 
« Last Edit: December 16, 2013, 03:30:09 pm by jackdaniels »

Re: Asiana 214...Redux...
« Reply #1 on: December 12, 2013, 06:37:32 am »
not what I needed to hear, I'm on that Asiana flight to SFO on Wednesday

Re: Asiana 214...Redux...
« Reply #2 on: December 16, 2013, 11:40:17 am »
Asian pilots in general over-rely on instruments. They can turn on auto-pilot and it will make the plane take off, land, anything.
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Re: Asiana 214...Redux...
« Reply #3 on: December 16, 2013, 02:06:22 pm »
I think it is industry wide and not just Asian pilots from what I have been reading. Kinda scary and a little absurd. I know the auto systems are really advanced but you would think knowing how to actually fly the plane would be something they would keep up on and do training for throughout the year.

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« Last Edit: December 20, 2013, 09:51:24 am by jackdaniels »

Re: Asiana 214...NTSB investigation
« Reply #5 on: December 20, 2013, 10:34:19 am »
Normally I would agree that "culture" is unimportant and that the personalities and training of the individuals involved are what matter most. But, in this case, two of the bigger problems were the lack of communication and the deference to titles and age over skill and ability at crucial times during the accident. Those problems are common in Korean culture. So culture did play a role.