Pilot in fatal crash was still in training

Mother of Wang Linjia, one of the two girls killed during the Asiana Airlines plane crash on Saturday, leaves for San Francisco from Shanghai Pudong airport
The mother (centre) of Wang Linjia, one of the two girls killed during the Asiana Airlines plane crash on Saturday, leaves for San Francisco from Shanghai Pudong airport today.

SAN FRANCISCO — The pilot of the crashed Asiana plane at San Francisco International Airport was still in training for the Boeing 777 when he attempted to land the aircraft under supervision on Saturday, the South Korean airline said.

Lee Kang-kuk was the second most junior pilot of four on board the Asiana Airlines plane. He had 43 hours of experience flying the long-range jet, the airline said today.

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

Two teenage Chinese girls on their way to summer camp in the United States were killed and more than 180 people injured in the crash, the first fatal accident involving the Boeing 777 since it entered service in 1995.

The Asiana flight from Seoul to San Francisco, with 16 crew and 291 passengers, included several large groups of Chinese students.

Asiana said Lee Kang-kuk, whose anglicised name was released for the first time today and differed slightly from earlier usage, was in the pilot seat during the landing. It was not clear whether the senior pilot, Lee Jung-min, who had clocked up 3,220 hours on a Boeing 777, had tried to take over to abort the landing.

“It’s a training that is common in the global aviation industry. All responsibilities lie with the instructor captain,” Yoon Young-doo, the president and CEO of the airline, said at a news conference today at the company headquarters.

The plane crashed after the crew tried to abort the landing with less than two seconds to go, according to the US National Transportation Safety Board said. (Reuters)

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