LOS ANGELES: Investigators probing the Asiana Airlines plane crash in San Francisco began interviewing cockpit crew of the Boeing 777 amid mounting indications that pilot error may have caused the fatal accident.
Two teenage Chinese girls were killed and more than 180 people injured when the Asiana flight from Seoul clipped a seawall short of the runway and went skidding out of control on its belly, shredding the tail end of the plane and starting a fire.
Deborah Hersman, head of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), said the aircraft’s four-man flying crew were being quizzed as it emerged the plane had been flying well below the recommended speed for landing when it crashed at San Francisco International Airport on Saturday.
“We will determine exactly what happened, when it happened and how it happened, if it was consistent with their process or procedures or if there is any deviation,” she said.
Meanwhile, Asiana Chief Executive Yoon Young-Doo defended the pilots of the San Francisco crash jet as “very competent.”
Yoon said the trainer who was acting as co-pilot at the time of the crash, Lee Jung-Min, had led 33 flights on 777s to San Francisco and had more than 3,000 flight hours under his belt—far more than the 500 required to become a trainer.
The pilot who was at the controls, Lee Kang-Kuk, who was still undergoing training on the 777, had also led 29 flights to San Francisco on 747s in the past, he said.
“They are very experienced and competent pilots,” he told reporters in Seoul, while adding that South Korea’s number two airline would improve its landing simulation training.