SEOUL – Asiana Airlines said Monday that the pilot in charge when one of its jets crashed in San Francisco at the weekend was still undergoing training for the Boeing 777 he was flying.
Lee Kang-Kuk, 46, had 43 hours of experience in piloting the 777 although he was a skilled pilot with more than 9,000 hours of total flight time under his belt, Asiana said.
“It’s true that Lee was on transition training for the Boeing 777”, an Asiana spokeswoman told AFP.
But he was accompanied by an experienced trainer, who acted as co-pilot.
The South’s transportation ministry said it would take months to identify the cause of the accident, although initial inspections showed the plane’s tail struck a seawall at the end of the runway.
“We cannot conclude the accident was caused by a pilot mistake. Whether there was a pilot mistake can be confirmed after all related data are analysed and inspected,” Choi Jeong-Ho, the head of the ministry’s aviation policy bureau, told reporters.
He added that Asiana had followed international rules in training the pilot.
Asiana said the airliner, purchased in March 2006, had received repairs for oil leaking from an engine early last month.
But the airline’s CEO, Yoon Young-Doo, on Sunday ruled out the possibility of mechanical failure as the cause of the crash.
It was the first fatal accident involving an Asiana passenger plane since June 1993, when a Boeing 737 operated by the carrier crashed into a mountain in South Korea, killing 68.
US investigators said the aircraft was travelling much slower than recommended and a pilot asked to abort the landing moments before the plane smashed into the ground at San Francisco International Airport on Saturday.
The flight data recorder also showed that the pilots received a warning that the engines were likely to stall as it approached the runway, where it burst into flames killing two people and injuring 182 others.
The request to abort the landing was captured on the cockpit voice recorder 1.5 seconds before the plane crashed, said US National Transportation Safety Board chairwoman Deborah Hersman, who is leading the probe.