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Home > Air Crash > Asian Cockpit Culture and the Asiana 214 Crash
Asian Cockpit Culture and the Asiana 214 Crash
Aviation - Air Crash
Thursday, 25 July 2013 14:36

Asiana Airlines Crash: The 7 Seconds of Horror on Flight 214

Hi Captain Lim,

There has been a lot of hype in the American media about the possibility of the Asian cockpit culture being the cause of the crash.

After the crash of the Korean Airlines cargo plane at London  Stansted, I do know that Korean Air's pilot training underwent a rigorous overhaul which quashed the hierarchy issue. As a result, Korean Air hasn’t had an accident since around 1999 if memory serves me correctly.

I would imagine Asiana would have done the same thing.

Perhaps you can 'fill in the blanks?'

Paul

Hi Paul,

It is true that the American media has been talking about the possibility of Asian culture being connected to the Asiana Flight 214 crash. That statement would have been more relevant in the past, especially if it had occurred prior to 1999.

Although the actual cause of the crash, according to NTSB, is still inconclusive, we all know that the plane came in low and slow. The pilot then attempted to abort the landing by selecting full power on the thrust levers and going around. It was too late as the decision was made 1.5 seconds before the impact.

From what I know, the pilot who was at the controls during impact had only 43 hours of flying experience on the Boeing 777 although he had logged more than 10,000 hours of flight time overall. He was being trained by another new instructor on the plane. I also understand that there was a third pilot, a junior relief first officer sitting on the jump seat during the landing. The fourth pilot who was the relief captain was seated in the cabin during the crash.

Some airlines make it a policy to have the 3rd or 4th relief pilot to be seated in the cockpit jump seats to be the ‘extra pair of eyes’ to monitor any safety issues that are missed by the flying pilots during the take-off and landing. Yes, some even allow the monitoring pilots to initiate a go-around if safety is obviously compromised!

Perhaps, if this practice was put in place, the crash would have been averted.

The issue is, would this junior pilot sitting on the jump seat be assertive enough to voice his concern to the senior flying pilots?

This is where training is very important. From my experience, I generally found Australians or western pilots to be very assertive. On the other hand, the issue of culture tends to crop up when dealing with eastern Asian pilots. They are, by nature, less so - being deferential toward their elders and superiors in a way that would be unimaginable to those in the west (see my article, Saying No to Your Boss here). Well, such hierarchical culture will take decades to change!

Nevertheless, the airlines in some Asian countries, (not necessary Korean; Japanese & Chinese as well) are aware of such shortcomings and have taken steps to mitigate the cultural issues through CRM (Crew Resources Management) training, amongst others. These have progressively reduced accidents.

PS. To check for any latest updates or postings, you can follow my Twitter at @CaptKHLim

Boeing 777 Crash of Asiana Airlines Flight 214

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