By Keith Laing
Federal investigators are releasing too much information about the crash of a Boeing 777 airplane that was being flown by Asiana Airlines on Saturday, according to the union for commercial airline pilots.
The Washington, D.C.-based Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) said it was “stunned” at the “unprecedented” amount of information that has been made available to the public.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has hinted strongly that pilot error is a likely cause of the accident, which killed two passengers and injured more than 180.
“ALPA is stunned by the amount of detailed operational data from on-board recorders released by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) this soon into the investigation,” the union said. “The amount of data released publicly during the field portion of the accident investigation is unprecedented.”
The NTSB has said that the Asiana airplane was flying too slowly as it attempted to land at San Francisco International Airport. The agency has also revealed that the pilots of the airplane, which was carrying more than 300 people, discussed aborting the attempted landing seconds before the plane crashed into the ground.
Two passengers who were sitting near the rear of the plane were killed, and several others escaped from the plane onto the San Francisco airport’s runway before the jet burst into flames. Investigators have confirmed they are reviewing the possibility that one of the victims — a teenage female — was run over by an emergency vehicle responding to the crash.
The pilots’ union said this week that it wanted to find out what lead to the accident, which was the first major plane crash in the U.S. since 2009, through an “objective accident investigation process.”
“It is imperative that safety investigators refrain from prematurely releasing the information from on-board recording devices,” the pilots’ union said. “We have seen in the past that publicizing this data before all of it can be collected and analyzed leads to erroneous conclusions that can actually interfere with the investigative process.
“The release of individual data points from the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder — without the context of the entire body of factual investigative data — represents a potential detriment to flight safety,” the union statement continued. “It encourages wild speculation, as we have already seen in the media, about causes of the accident before all the facts are known, before investigators have the ability to determine why the events occurred, and in this case before the flight crew had even been interviewed.”
The president of Asiana Airlines said on Monday that the pilot of its airplane that crashed was training to learn how to fly the Boeing 777 during a news conference that was televised in South Korea, where the company is based.
The pilot, Lee Kang-guk, reportedly had experience flying other large airplanes like the Airbus A320 and Boeing 747. But Asiana Airlines President Yoon Young-doo said Kang-guk did not have a lot of experience flying the 777.
“For him, this was a training flight, as he was switching to a new type of plane,” Young-doo said of Kang-guk, according to a translation that was completed by The New York Times.