Proper Response to Asiana 214 crash – millions in penalty or focused remedial action?

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Asiana Airlines Ordered To Suspend San Francisco Route For 45 Days

Probable Cause Asiana 214 : Pilot Error and Inadequate Training

MOLIT orders suspension of route for 45 days = loss of 11 billion ₩ (won)

Remedial Sanction = spend penalty of pilot training, simulators and better crew fatigue measures?


Asiana Airlines will be made to suspend its San Francisco route for a period of 45 days at some point in the next six months. The Korean Supreme Court upheld a decision by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport to issue the suspension as a punishment, following the crash of flight 214 in 2013.

As reported today in Reuters, South Korea’s Supreme Court upheld a decision to suspend the airline’s route between Seoul Incheon and San Francisco for a total of 45 days. This will be very unwelcome news for the Korean carrier, as it struggles under a mountain of debt and seeks to find a buyer to give it a fresh lease of life.

A suspension penalty

The suspension of the route was previously ordered by Korea’s transport ministry in the wake of a deadly crash at San Francisco International Airport in 2013. The incident involved a Boeing 777-200, which crash-landed at SFO causing three deaths and injuries to around 200 people. The cause was determined to have been pilot error.

The airline was deemed to be responsible for the accident due to the lack of training and education of its pilots. The pilot had failed to accurately monitor airspeed and was found to have been too reliant on automated systems.

As a result, Korea’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport ruled that the airline should suspend the route for a total of 90 days as a punishment. However, they then agreed to halve this punishment on the agreement of the airline to give compensation to its victims.…”

The Korean Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport is a very large organization with extensive jurisdiction, of which civil aviation is a small segment.

The Aviation and Railway Accident Investigation Board holds powers very similar to the NTSB and participated in the investigation in San Francisco (unlike US law the Korean pilots were not required to receive immediate drug and alcohol tests. When the ARAIB did sample the crews, four weeks later, the results were negative).

Here is a summary of the relevant NTSB report determinations

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was the flight crew’s mismanagement of the airplane’s descent  …(1) the complexities of the autothrottle and autopilot flight director systems that were inadequately described in Boeing’s documentation and Asiana’s pilot training, which increased the likelihood of mode error; (2) the flight crew’s nonstandard communication and coordination regarding the use of the autothrottle and autopilot flight director systems; (3) the pilot flying’s inadequate training on the planning and executing of visual approaches; (4) the pilot monitoring/instructor pilot’s inadequate supervision of the pilot flying; and (5) flight crew fatigue, which likely degraded their performance…”


MITI was aware that Asiana was, according to the US NTSB, responsible for the accident due to the lack of training and education of its pilots. While the applicable law seems very broad as to possible sanctions, a remedial requirement is neither specifically mentioned nor implicitly approved in the statute.

Hopefully this will not sound too much like cultural imperialism, but it might have been efficacious for aviation safety if MOLIT and the Supreme Court would have ordered Asiana to spend the 11 billion (won) on more training of their pilots, more simulators, additional supervision by management and/or scheduling & fatigue management systems to reduce the likelihood of tired cockpit crews.




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