Asiana chief defends 'very experienced' crash pilots

Asiana chief defends 'very experienced' crash pilots

SEOUL – Agence France-Presse
Asiana chief defends very experienced crash pilots

The wreckage of Asiana Flight 214 that crashed upon landing Saturday sits on the tarmac at San Francisco International Airport as a Scandinavian Airlines plane lands Monday, July 8, 2013 in San Francisco. AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

South Korea's Asiana Airlines on Tuesday defended the pilots of the San Francisco crash jet as "very competent" as attention focussed on whether human error caused the Boeing 777 to slam into the runway.

The pilot at the controls was a novice at flying the 777, and his supervising colleague had only just qualified as a trainer, according to Asiana. US investigators say the plane was flying far too slowly when it clipped a seawall short of the runway on Saturday. Asiana chief executive Yoon Young-Doo said he would travel to California to meet transport safety officials and victims, after US investigators said they had begun questioning the cockpit crew.

Yoon said the trainer who was acting as co-pilot at the time of the crash, Lee Jung-Min, had led 33 flights on 777s to San Francisco and had more than 3,000 flight hours under his belt -- far more than the 500 required to become a trainer.

The pilot who was at the controls, Lee Kang-Kuk, who was still undergoing training on the 777, had also led 29 flights to San Francisco on 747s in the past, he said.

"They are very experienced and competent pilots," he told reporters in Seoul, while adding that South Korea's number two airline would improve its landing simulation training.

"I feel tremendous responsibility for those affected by the crash," Yoon added.

Two teenage Chinese girls were killed and more than 180 people injured when the flight from Shanghai via Seoul went skidding out of control on its belly, shredding the tail end of the plane and starting a fire.