Sunday, July 07, 2013

South Korean Jet Crashes On Landing in SFO

Last night a South Korean commercial airliner crashed on landing in San Francisco, killing two teenage girls and injuring 182 others.  The crash appears to be pilot error -- apparently, he came in too low, too soon and clipped a seawall, tearing off the tail.  It's amazing how everyone but the two young girls survived, considering how charred the plane is.  Those inflatable escape slides worked very well to save so many.

I read (in one of the Freakonomics books) that Korean airlines have crashed more than other airlines due to the cultural aspects of the Korean pecking order:  copilots would not speak up to warn the captain of danger, or dare to disagree, or even to take matters into their own hands to avoid crashes.  After the third crash or so, they finally investigated and arranged for a different protocol to avoid crashes, and it seems to have worked, at least up until now.

The black boxes have been recovered and it will be interesting to see what the pilot and crew conversations reveal.

1 comment:

Stogie said...

Korean Air used to have a bad safety reputation, partly because of the extreme authority gradient in the cockpit that you mentioned -- the first officer was inhibited from questioning any decision by the captain or even pointing out any apparent threat. More recently, the airline had an American or British safety manager who laid down the law about crew resource management and things seem to have improved. But Asiana, the carrier whose 777 crashed at SFO, may still be suffering from the bad old ways.

I read it was a visual approach. Why? SFO is not alone in this regard; controllers at lots of airports clear airliners for visual approaches when an instrument landing system precision approach is available. Even if visibility is perfect, a crew that has flown from Asia through numerous time zones is probably not going to be at their most alert. The final approach is hand flown, but a precision approach to that point might have lessened the possibility of coming in low (and possibly fast).

Well, the pilots survived, the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder should be in working order, so it ought not be too hard for NTSB to establish a probable cause.

It looks like SFO airport rescue and firefighting was on the ball and probably saved some lives.