There’s blame to go around in Asiana air crash

If there is not a significant change in pilot training worldwide, this will happen again


There is not a great deal of difference between the recent Asiana airline tragedy in San Francisco and the 2009 Air France crash in the Atlantic other than the death toll. Both may have been caused by a lack of basic airmanship skills.

In the case of Air France AF447 crash, when you pull the nose up and the airplane keeps going down it is time to put the nose down and firewall it; I don’t care what the computer is saying.

In the case of Asiana Flight 214, how do you let the airplane get 30 knots below the desired approach speed and just sit there waiting for the auto throttles to fix it – with four pilots on board?

It is hard to know who to blame – the manufacturer for building these automated aircraft, the airlines for not teaching basic piloting skills or the government regulatory agencies for not requiring the aforementioned training. In the days of video-game cockpits, so much (too much!) emphasis is placed on the use of the autopilot, auto approach, auto land, auto throttle, auto everything. Pilots no longer gain experience in how to fly the airplane when auto takes the day off.

Two colleagues of mine – one a retired Delta 767 captain, the other a retired United 747 captain, both of whom worked with the Koreans in training – commented that there was much said about the culture that impacted this event. Based on past experience, air carriers will rarely admit when they are wrong and are not inclined to think outside the box throughout their training. Perhaps we have the regulators and airframe assemblers to thank for this culture, but as the saying goes – "it is what it is."

We were very fortunate that the death toll was not higher in San Francisco. Yet if there is not a significant change in training worldwide, this will happen again.

We cannot forget that no matter how good modern aircraft are, basic flight skills still need to be taught and reinforced. Aircraft do what they are told, and every commercial pilot needs to be able to fly based on training and instinct.

Greg Raiff is CEO of Private Jet Services, Seabrook.

Categories: Opinion