Saturday 23 September 2017

Plane crash pilot had just 43 hours experience in jet

Wang Linjia: mother of one of the two girls killed in crash
Wang Linjia: mother of one of the two girls killed in crash

Nick Allen Los Angeles

One of two Chinese schoolgirls who died in a plane crash in San Francisco may have survived the disaster only to be run over by a fire engine or ambulance.

An investigation into how the teenager died began as it emerged that the plane's pilot Lee Kang-kuk (46) was training and in the process of getting a licence for the Boeing 777, which he was landing at that airport for the first time. He had logged only 43 hours at the controls on nine flights in that aircraft.

More than 180 people were injured, 49 of them seriously, when Asiana Airlines Flight 214 hit a sea wall at the start of the runway, ripping off its tail, on Saturday.

There were 307 passengers and crew on the flight, which originated in Shanghai with a stop in Seoul.

The two girls who died were Ye Mengyuan (16) and Wang Linjia (17) friends from Zhejiang province heading for a summer camp to improve their English.

One of the girls was found 30ft outside the main section of the plane. A fire department spokesman said: "One of the deceased did have injuries consistent with those of having been run over by a vehicle."

Photographs of the aftermath of the crash showed passengers huddling near the smoking wreckage, some of them wheeling away their suitcases.

Lee Kang-kuk was being supervised in the cockpit by a senior pilot, Lee Jung-min, who was on his first flight as a trainer having received his certificate in June. He had 3,220 hours in a Boeing 777.

Yoon Young-Doo, the head of the airline, said the focus on the pilot's experience was "intolerable" and "contrary to the facts."

He said the pilot was undergoing a "very regular type of training that is done by all other airlines around the world".

The plane's crew tried to abort the descent less than two seconds before it hit a seawall on the landing approach to the airport, bounced along the tarmac and burst into flames.

It was Lee's first attempt to land a 777 at San Francisco airport, although he had flown there 29 times previously on other types of aircraft, said South Korean Transport Ministry official Choi Seung-youn.

WARNING

Earlier, the ministry said Lee, who is in his mid-40s, had almost 10,000 flying hours.

The crash was the first fatal accident involving a Boeing 777 since they entered service in 1995.

National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) chairwoman Deborah Hersman said information collected from the plane's cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder indicated there were no signs of problems until seven seconds before impact, when the crew tried to accelerate.

A stall warning, in which the cockpit controls begin to shake, activated four seconds before impact, and the crew tried to abort the landing and initiate what is known as a "go around" (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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