Asiana crash underscores safety deficiencies in many foreign-based airlines

posted on:
August 9, 2013

author:
Kurt Niland

Last week, columnists Matier and Ross at the San Francisco Chronicle reported that San Francisco International Airport (SFO) officials and other aviation authorities were concerned about Asiana Airlines’ unusually high rate of aborted landings or “go-arounds” at SFO, where one of the South Korean operator’s flights crashed July 6 upon touchdown, killing three and injuring some 180 others. The incident, and Asiana’s poor SFO landing record, underscore what aviation officials say is a big disparity between U.S. aviation safety standards and those of most other countries.

According to an L.A. Times report, “a wide range of U.S. aviation experts” believe that “the United States and a handful of European nations, by a wide margin, have better-trained pilots, more sophisticated regulatory agencies that closely monitor operations, and airlines that vastly exceed minimum government requirements.

“Although all commercial airlines that fly into the U.S. must meet minimum international standards, only a few rise to the same level as the domestic industry,” the L.A. Times report said.

In Asiana’s case, one deficiency may be in pilot training requirements. Some U.S. aviation experts contend that the crash of Asiana 214 and the operator’s poor SFO-landing record indicate that its pilots may be too dependent on automatic controls and not adequately trained to land an airplane manually.

Any deficiency of skill in operating an airplane manually could spell disaster, especially in takeoff and landing procedures, which are more complicated and require greater skill than autopilot may provide.

Investigators are trying to understand why the three pilots aboard Asiana 214 failed to notice the airplane’s improper landing speed and altitude until it was too late. To date they have found no evidence that the Boeing 777 had any electronic or mechanical problems that could have contributed to the disaster. So for now, the training, experience and qualifications of Asiana 214’s pilots remain at the center of the probe.

Asiana Airlines insists that it meets or exceeds U.S. and international standards, but company officials said that they were “in the process of reexamining our procedures and training.”

The L.A. Times reports that of the nearly 300 aviation crashes worldwide involving large passenger airplanes since 1990, 87 percent involved foreign carriers, even though they represent a substantially smaller share of air traffic. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has restricted or banned airlines from 23 countries from entering U.S. airspace. Most of the banned airlines are based in Asia and Africa.

Sources:
The San Francisco Chronicle
The Los Angeles Times

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