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Former Pilots for Korean Airlines Blame Training, Cultural Issues for Crashes

Former pilots for Korean airlines tell VOA that training and cultural issues may have contributed to last month's Asiana Airlines crash at San Francisco International Airport. The concerns were raised by air safety investigators in the U.S., Britain and Canada, after a number of mishaps and disasters dating back to the 1990's.

Last month, the Asiana captain flew into San Francisco's international airport using a visual approach, instead of automation controls. The jet flew too low and too slow, with the resulting crash killing three and injuring 180.

The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) reports that nobody in the crew - on its first flight together - spoke up about this dire position, despite automated warnings - until two pilots called for a go-around - both too late.

The former chairman of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, Jim Hall, who helped conduct an earlier safety review of the Korean airline industry expresses concern that the July crash might not be an isolated incident.



"With a decade, it's not unusual, unfortunately, in the accident investigation business, to find that lessons learned are also lessons forgotten as times pass."



Ross Aimer, a former United Airlines captain who trained KAL pilots six years ago, says the reluctance to speak up can be traced to Korea's cultural tradition of deference to authority.



"You can't change a 3,000-year culture with just a few years."



An overreliance on automation also may have contributed to the crash. Korean pilots practice manual landings on a simulator once every six months, but aviation experts say other airlines require their pilots to practice such landings in real-life situations. Sources say Asiana pilots routinely decline offers of visual approaches from air traffic controllers.

The FAA has told VOA that it has temporarily banned foreign pilots from using visual approaches in San Francisco. It took this action after seeing an increase in aborted landings or go-arounds by foreign pilots attempting visual approaches, including one by Asiana --- less than two weeks after the crash.

The entire VOA investigative report will be available on TV and the Internet on Friday.

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