In the aftermath of a horrific crash that occurred at San Francisco International Airport on July 6, 2013, the Federal Aviation Administration [FAA] is continuing its intense investigation into why the accident occurred and what preventative measures can be taken to avert further aviation disasters. What has been revealed preliminarily has raised serious questions as to the conduct and training of the crew, the fact the senior pilot was on his first training flight, the lack of experience of the junior pilot, and Asiana’s incredible failure to recognize the plane was too low and too slow in its approach under near perfect visual conditions. Another question raised is why the ILS has been unavailable and what the FAA Controllers actually saw as the ill-fated plane approached.
What is known is that the incident and its tragic aftermath were completely avoidable if people simply did what they are supposed to do.
According to a Reuters’ article, the senior pilot, Lee Jeong-min, who was overseeing the landing of the Boeing 777 by a more junior colleague, was on his first flight as a trainer. Jung-min had just received his training certificate in June 2013. Lee Kang-guk was apparently the pilot and he had only 43 hours experience on board the Asiana jet. It is not known what training he had in simulators as pilots frequently train on airports around the globe in simulated circumstances even if they are unfamiliar with the locale. According to media reports, he was the second most junior pilot of the four on board. It is not known where the other two pilots were, if they were in the cockpit or seating with the passengers.
Additionally, Lee Kang-guk was making his first landing at SFO with a Boeing 777. He had not yet qualified to make landings in this aircraft without supervision and as a result was supposedly under the supervision of a man who had received his training certificate only weeks before. Investigators will certainly look at his training, and why there was a failure to respond to what eyewitnesses described as a plane flying too low and too slow in its approach.
The aircraft, carrying 291 passengers and 16 crew, was operating flight 214 from Seoul to San Francisco and landed short of the threshold of runway 28L at 11:36 a.m. local time. The 777 was badly damaged in the initial crash landing and was subsequently gutted by fire that engulfed the fuselage. The plane was a Boeing 777 using Pratt and Whitney engines. Weather at the time of the accident was good with light winds of 6-7 kt. from the southwest and visibility in excess of ten miles. The aircraft hit the low seawall, which separates the airport from the waters of San Francisco Bay
Asiana Airlines was established on February 17, 1988 and is based out of Seoul, Korea. Their fleet includes 79 airplanes with six different models, including the latest Boeing 777 model, the B777-200ER. They service 12 cities domestically, and 71 cities internationally. According to their website, their management philosophy is “Fulfilling customer satisfaction by providing the best in safety, services, and comfort to the body and mind while traveling–Asiana Airlines pursues these values in the name of excellent service and safety.”
According to Kathleen Pender in the July 9, 2013 San Francisco Chronicle, “commercial airlines carry at least $1.5 billion per plane in liability insurance.” It is not yet known what the insurance provisions were for this plane.
SFO and ILS
Normally the runaways at SFO have ILS (instrument landing system glideslope) available for approaching aircraft. An FAA Notam (notice to airmen) for San Francisco indicates that, at the time of the accident, the ILS for runway 28L was declared out of service from June 1 to Aug. 22. It is not known what precautions were taken by SFO or Asiana regarding this issue.
Two other questions are also not known at this time. One is whether the Asiana flight-training syllabus required the pilot to land on a runaway that did not have ILS, or whether the pilot asked if he could land on 28R, which did have ILS.
San Francisco International Airport is located 13 miles south of San Francisco. SFO is the seventh busiest airport in North America. According to the May 2013 Comparative Traffic Report at SFO, there have been a total of 289,496 air carriers that flown into and out of San Francisco. The total amount of enplaned and deplaned passengers exceeds over 40 million for the 2012-2013 fiscal year. SFO services 44 airlines that travel domestically and internationally.
Aviation, whether as a hobby, for commercial purposes, or recreation, always has risks. Everyone knows things can go wrong in the air. Whether you are a pilot or a passenger, you share the risk of flying. Unfortunately, even the most talented and prepared pilot can fall victim to defective equipment and human error. The Aviation Accident Attorneys at the Brandi Law Firm have successfully represented many people injured from gliders, single engine helicopters, commercial aircraft and actions against the FAA, Boeing, Honeywell, GE, maintenance facilities, part providers, and major commercial airlines, both in trials and in obtaining settlements. The Aviation Accident Attorneys at the Brandi Law Firm have successfully navigated the complex issues raised in these cases both factually, with experts, and the procedural questions raised by choice of law, and the Montreal convention. If you or a loved one has been injured in a plane crash, our attorneys at the Brandi Law Firm are available to consult with you. Please contact our office at 800-481-1615 or email us.