South Korea’s Asiana airlines faces government investigation

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The wreckage of Asiana Flight 214, which crashed on Saturday, July 6, 2013, seen at San Francisco International Airport, in San Francisco. AP File Photo

SEOUL — South Korea’s Asiana airlines will be subject of a three-week government investigation after one of its passenger jets crash landed in San Francisco, officials said Monday.

The transport ministry also ordered all South Korean airlines to step up safety measures and provide additional training for their pilots and crew.

“South Korean airlines are required to strengthen safety measures in all areas, from flight operation, maintenance and their operation manuals to facilities,” vice transportation minister Yeo Hyung-Koo said in a statement released by his office.

The order came Monday at talks between transportation ministry officials and executives from the country’s eight carriers.

The probe into Asiana will investigate whether it violated any rules in its operation and training, the ministry said.

Four pilots from the Boeing 777 that crashed on July 6 will be questioned from Wednesday. The pilots returned home on Saturday after being quizzed by US aviation officials.

The Asiana jet from Shanghai via Seoul clipped a sea wall with its tail as it came in to land at the US airport and skidded out of control before catching fire, leaving three dead and more than 180 injured.

Two teenage Chinese girls died immediately after the accident and another girl, also Chinese, died from her injuries on Friday.

Asiana said Monday it would file a defamation suit against Fox network affiliate KTVU news Channel 2 in Oakland for mistakenly confirming and airing false and offensive names for the pilots.

It cited the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) as its source, but quickly realised the mistake and apologised. The NTSB blamed the mistake on an intern.

“The KTVU broadcast has seriously undermined the honour of our company,” the carrier said in a statement.

The ministry said it had received a message of regret from the NTSB over the report.

Two of the four Asiana pilots onboard were in the cockpit at the time of the crash.

Questions have been raised about whether their perceived lack of experience in flying the B777 played a role in the accident — the carrier’s first passenger jet crash in 20 years.

Lee Kang-Kuk, a pilot for 10 years, was at the controls and in the middle of training to fly the B777, which he had flown for around 40 hours previously.

Lee Jung-Min, acting as co-pilot and trainer, had received his teaching license for the aircraft a month before the accident and had flown the B777 for 3,200 hours before.

Asiana has argued the pair were “competent” veterans with around 10,000 flying hours including dozens of flights to San Francisco.

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