UK & World News

  • 12 December 2013, 13:29

Asiana Crash Pilot Worried About Landing

The trainee pilot of the jet that crash-landed at San Francisco's airport last summer worried privately about his ability to land the Asiana Airlines flight safely, an investigation has found.

Lee Kang Kuk harboured fears about landing while relying on manual controls and a visual approach, but did not express them to his fellow crew members because he did not want to fail his training mission and embarrass himself.

The revelations were part of thousands of pages of investigative documents released during a National Transportation Safety Board hearing into the accident on July 6, which killed three people and injured more than 200.

The NTSB also released video showing the moment of impact, where the plane can be seen tumbling down the runway.

After the crash, Mr Lee told NTSB investigators that he had been concerned he might "fail his flight and would be embarrassed".

Although Mr Lee was an experienced pilot with the Korea-based airline, he was a trainee captain in the Boeing 777, with less than 45 hours on the jet.

He had not flown an airliner into San Francisco's notoriously tricky airport since 2004, according to NTSB investigator Bill English.

Mr Lee told investigators he had been "very concerned" about attempting a visual approach without instrument landing aids, which were turned off because of runway construction.

The NTSB is also examining an apparent lack of communication in the cockpit and signs of confusion among the pilots about the airliner's elaborate computer systems.

So far the investigation has not found any mechanical problems with the 777 prior to impact, although testing is ongoing, Mr English said.

That focused attention on Mr Lee, who did not speak at the hearing but whose actions - and failure to act - were a major part of the day-long meeting.

NTSB chairman Deborah Hersman stressed during a news conference that the agency had not yet concluded what caused the crash.

Documents released as part of the probe catalogued a series of problems that, taken together, could have been factors.

"This pilot should never have taken off," said lawyer Ilyas Akbari, whose firm represents 14 of the passengers.

"The fact that the pilot was stressed and nervous is a testament to the inadequate training he received, and those responsible for his training and for certifying his competency bear some of the culpability."

It has also emerged a teenage girl who survived the crash was run over by two rescue vehicles in the accident's chaotic aftermath.

Authorities in California revealed months ago that 16-year-old Chinese student Ye Meng Yuan was alive on the runway and covered in firefighting foam when she was hit by an emergency vehicle and suffered the multiple injuries that killed her.

But the NTSB documents reveal she was in fact struck twice - once by a fire rig spraying foam and again 11 minutes later by a second truck that was being turned around to fetch more water.

Two other teenage girls from China died in the crash.

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