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NTSB: Asiana captain worried about visual landing prior to SFO crash

  • In this Saturday, July 6, 2013 aerial file photo, the wreckage of the Asiana Flight 214 airplane is seen after it crashed at the San Francisco International Airport in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

WASHINGTON — The pilot of the jet that crash-landed at San Francisco's airport last summer worried privately before takeoff about handling the Boeing 777, especially because runway construction meant he would have to land without any help from a common type of guidance system.

And neither the trainee nor an instructor pilot in the cockpit said anything when the first officer raised concerns four times about the plane's rapid descent.

After the July 6 accident, which killed three people and injured more than 200, Lee Kang Kuk told National Transportation Safety Board investigators that he had been concerned he might "fail his flight and would be embarrassed."

Lee's backstory emerged Wednesday in documents released at an NTSB hearing called to answer lingering questions about the crash of Asiana Flight 214.

Though Lee was an experienced pilot with the Korea-based airline, he was a trainee captain in the 777, with less than 45 hours in the jet. He had not piloted an airliner into San Francisco's notoriously tricky airport since 2004, according to NTSB investigator Bill English.

So far, the investigation has not found any mechanical problems with the 777 prior to impact, although testing is ongoing, English said.

That focused attention on Lee, who did not speak at the hearing but whose actions — and failure to act — were a major part of the daylong meeting.

The NTSB's chairman, Deborah Hersman, stressed that the agency has not yet concluded what caused the crash. But she acknowledged that the agency was examining signs of confusion about the 777's elaborate computer systems and an apparent lack of communication in the cockpit.

Documents released Wednesday cataloged a series of problems that, taken together, could have been factors in the crash.

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