Asiana chief says crash pilots ‘very experienced and competent’

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Asiana Airlines CEO Yoon Young-Doo delivers a statement prior to leaving for San Francisco, at the company’s headquarters in Seoul on July 9, 2013. Investigators probing the Asiana Airlines plane crash in San Francisco began interviewing cockpit crew of the Boeing 777 amid mounting indications that pilot error may have caused the fatal accident. AFP PHOTO / Ed Jones

SEOUL – Asiana Airlines’ chief executive on Tuesday defended two pilots at the center of the carrier’s fatal crash in San Francisco, saying the pair were “very experienced and competent”.

Yoon Young-Doo, who made the comments as he prepared to fly to the United States to meet with transportation safety officials and victims, also told reporters in Seoul: “I feel tremendous responsibility for those affected by the crash.”

He added that the airline would boost its landing simulation training for pilots.

On Monday, the boss of South Korea’s second-largest airline lashed out at media reports that pilot inexperience may have been to blame for the fatal crash, calling it “intolerable”.

Attention on the crew’s experience has intensified after Asiana said a trainer assigned to guide the aircraft’s pilot was himself on his first day on job.

The trainer, Lee Jung-Min, had received his teaching license for the Boeing 777 just a month before the crash on Saturday, although he is an experienced pilot with thousands of flying hours, Asiana said.

He was assigned to guide colleague Lee Kang-Kuk, who was landing in the US city for the first time on that model of aircraft.

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

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