Home / National News / Asiana Airlines Crash: Pilot Was in Ninth Training Flight for Boeing 777


(SAN FRANCISCO) — The pilot in charge of the Asiana Airlines jet that crash-landed at San Francisco International Airport on Saturday was in his ninth training flight on the Boeing 777 and was 11 flights short of the worldwide standard to get licensed, company officials said.

Pilot Lee Kang-kook had 43 hours of flight experience on the Boeing 777 and Saturday was his first time landing at the airport with that kind of aircraft, Asiana Airlines spokeswoman Lee Hyo-min said Monday at a news conference in Seoul, South Korea.

“He is a veteran pilot with almost 10,000 hours on other aircrafts like the 747,” she said.  “He was in the process of getting a license for the new 777.”

“He has flown the new 777 nine times before to Narita [in Tokyo], London, L.A., and more.  But, yes, to San Francisco, with that specific 777 type, it was his first,” she added.

Lee flew with an experienced Boeing 777 pilot mentor, in accordance with world standard, the spokeswoman said.  Lee’s trainer on Saturday was Lee Jung-min, who has more than 3,000 hours flying the 777, and a total of 12,387 hours flying experience, according to the airline.

“The basic principles of flying a big jetliner are the same whether you’re dealing with a 747 or a 777 or a 737 and among those are the ability to land on a runway in clear visual weather,” ABC News aviation analyst John Nance said.

“This captain was fully licensed to be doing what he was doing.  It wasn’t a matter of he needed 10 flights and then he would get his license,” Nance continued.  “It’s a matter of after 10 flights, all his restrictions as a new captain in a new airplane are removed.”

Asiana Airlines Flight 214 was carrying 291 passengers and 16 crew members when it crashed on Saturday.  The tail was torn off as it crashed, and the plane burst into flames.

The crash of the Boeing 777 resulted in two deaths and 181 injured people.  Forty-nine patients are at area hospitals after surviving the crash.  Eight patients remained in critical condition.

The two victims were identified as Wang Linjia and Ye Mengyuan, both 16-year-old female students from China, according to Chinese media reports.

San Francisco Asst. Deputy Fire Chief Dale Carnes confirmed to ABC News that an investigation is underway by the National Transportation Safety Board and the San Francisco Police Department into whether one of the two passengers may have actually died after being run over by a rescue vehicle.

“Literally, until we get all of the facts from the investigation, anything I might offer would just be conjecture.  I don’t want to give any misinformation out on that,” Carnes told ABC News.

The flight’s black boxes have been recovered and revealed the frantic moments seconds before the impact.  Data on the black boxes showed that the pilots learned the plane was about to stall and tried to abort the landing seconds before it crashed on the runway, NTSB Chairwoman Deborah Hersman said on Sunday.

Analysis of the plane’s recovered black boxes revealed that the control yoke shook in the pilot’s hand about four seconds before the plane crashed, Hersman said.  The pilots then attempted a “go-around” to abort the landing, less than two seconds before the plane hit the runway.

Hersman said one of the flight crew members called to increase the plane’s speed seven seconds before impact, according to data the NTSB obtained from the cockpit voice recorder.

The Boeing 777 aircraft was traveling at a speed “significantly” below the target speed of 137 knots (about 157 mph), but Hersman would not indicate how much slower the plane was traveling.

The plane’s engines appeared to respond normally, she said.

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