It has been a relatively quiet year for plane crashes. On July 6, 2013, however, the Korean airline Asiana Airlines experienced a crash. Their flight 214 on approach to San Francisco International Airport from Seoul crashed after reportedly clipping a sea wall. The crash landing sheared off the plane’s landing gear and tore the tail off from the rest of the fuselage. It then burst into flames.
The Boeing 777 had 307 people on board (291 passengers and 16 crew). The passengers included 141 Chinese nationals, 77 South Koreans, 61 Americans, three Indians, three Canadians, one French, one Vietnamese and one Japanese. The plane was evacuated within an impressive 90 seconds. Sadly, two 16 year old Chinese girls died. 123 passengers escaped unharmed. The rest were treated at various San Francisco area hospitals. The airport was closed for five hours with flights diverted to Los Angeles, Oakland and San Jose, Sacramento and Seattle.
Asiana is a Skytax five star airline. They were nominated as Airline Of The Year in 2010. The carrier has 79 planes flying to 106 destinations. I have not flown with them.
The plane was a Boeing 777-28EER, registration number HL7742. It was originally delivered to Asiana Airlines in March 2006 and had flown for approximately 36,000 flight hours. The two engines on the plane were Pratt & Whitney PW4090s. There had been no reported aircraft problems prior to this incident. The airline owns 11 of the type.
The 777 is one of the safest aircraft ever built. Of the over 1100 built, only tw0 have been written off prior to the Asiana incident:
- January 17, 2008, British Airways Flight 38 in London
- July 29, 2011, EgyptAir SU-GBP had a cockpit fire at Cairo airport while parked at a gate
Much has been made of the fact that one of the pilots of flight 214, Lee Kang-kook, who was the one landing the plane, had only 43 hours flying experience on the 777. This ignores a 9,793 hours flying history he had accumulated through his flying career. The senior pilot Lee Jeong-min, was a veteran pilot with 12,387 hours of flying experience, including 3,220 hours on the Boeing 777.
The incident has generated a lot of publicity across the globe’s media. A big jetliner’s demise grabs a lot of attention. In all of the hand wringing, analysis and follow up, how many will consider the death toll and injuries were less than what happens on Californian roads every week? How come we don’t focus as much attention on those deaths and injuries?
Update: three young girls sadly lost their lives in this crash.