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The truth about Asiana Airlines incompetence

 
Kai D Kravit (VALIS)
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07/09/2013 06:49 PM
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The truth about Asiana Airlines incompetence
This is from a line check airman who worked out of Korea after working for United. Pretty disturbing:

"After I retired from UAL as a Standards Captain on the –400, I got a job as a simulator instructor working for Alteon (a Boeing subsidiary) at Asiana. When I first got there, I was shocked and surprised by the lack of basic piloting skills shown by most of the pilots. It is not a normal situation with normal progression from new hire, right seat, left seat taking a decade or two. One big difference is that ex-Military pilots are given super-seniority and progress to the left seat much faster. Compared to the US, they also upgrade fairly rapidly because of the phenomenal growth by all Asian air carriers. By the way, after about six months at Asiana, I was moved over to KAL and found them to be identical. The only difference was the color of the uniforms and airplanes. I worked in Korea for 5 long years and although I found most of the people to be very pleasant, it’s a minefield of a work environment ... for them and for us expats.

One of the first things I learned was that the pilots kept a web-site and reported on every training session. I don’t think this was officially sanctioned by the company, but after one or two simulator periods, a database was building on me (and everyone else) that told them exactly how I ran the sessions, what to expect on checks, and what to look out for. For example; I used to open an aft cargo door at 100 knots to get them to initiate an RTO and I would brief them on it during the briefing. This was on the B-737 NG and many of the captains were coming off the 777 or B744 and they were used to the Master Caution System being inhibited at 80 kts. Well, for the first few days after I started that, EVERYONE rejected the takeoff. Then, all of a sudden they all “got it” and continued the takeoff (in accordance with their manuals). The word had gotten out. I figured it was an overall PLUS for the training program.

We expat instructors were forced upon them after the amount of fatal accidents (most of the them totally avoidable) over a decade began to be noticed by the outside world. They were basically given an ultimatum by the FAA, Transport Canada, and the EU to totally rebuild and rethink their training program or face being banned from the skies all over the world. They hired Boeing and Airbus to staff the training centers. KAL has one center and Asiana has another. When I was there (2003-2008) we had about 60 expats conducting training KAL and about 40 at Asiana. Most instructors were from the USA, Canada, Australia, or New Zealand with a few stuffed in from Europe and Asia. Boeing also operated training centers in Singapore and China so they did hire some instructors from there.

This solution has only been partially successful but still faces ingrained resistance from the Koreans. I lost track of the number of highly qualified instructors I worked with who were fired because they tried to enforce “normal” standards of performance. By normal standards, I would include being able to master basic tasks like successfully shoot a visual approach with 10 kt crosswind and the weather CAVOK. I am not kidding when I tell you that requiring them to shoot a visual approach struck fear in their hearts ... with good reason. Like this Asiana crew, it didnt’ compute that you needed to be a 1000’ AGL at 3 miles and your sink rate should be 600-800 Ft/Min. But, after 5 years, they finally nailed me. I still had to sign my name to their training and sometimes if I just couldn’t pass someone on a check, I had no choice but to fail them. I usually busted about 3-5 crews a year and the resistance against me built. I finally failed an extremely incompetent crew and it turned out he was the a high-ranking captain who was the Chief Line Check pilot on the fleet I was teaching on. I found out on my next monthly trip home that KAL was not going to renew my Visa. The crew I failed was given another check and continued a fly while talking about how unfair Captain Brown was.

Any of you Boeing glass-cockpit guys will know what I mean when I describe these events. I gave them a VOR approach with an 15 mile arc from the IAF. By the way, KAL dictated the profiles for all sessions and we just administered them. He requested two turns in holding at the IAF to get set up for the approach. When he finally got his nerve up, he requested “Radar Vectors” to final. He could have just said he was ready for the approach and I would have cleared him to the IAF and then “Cleared for the approach” and he could have selected “Exit Hold” and been on his way. He was already in LNAV/VNAV PATH. So, I gave him vectors to final with a 30 degree intercept. Of course, he failed to “Extend the FAF” and he couldn’t understand why it would not intercept the LNAV magenta line when he punched LNAV and VNAV. He made three approaches and missed approaches before he figured out that his active waypoint was “Hold at XYZ.” Every time he punched LNAV, it would try to go back to the IAF ... just like it was supposed to do. Since it was a check, I was not allowed (by their own rules) to offer him any help. That was just one of about half dozen major errors I documented in his UNSAT paperwork. He also failed to put in ANY aileron on takeoff with a 30-knot direct crosswind (again, the weather was dictated by KAL).

This Asiana SFO accident makes me sick and while I am surprised there are not more, I expect that there will be many more of the same type accidents in the future unless some drastic steps are taken. They are already required to hire a certain percentage of expats to try to ingrain more flying expertise in them, but more likely, they will eventually be fired too. One of the best trainees I ever had was a Korean/American (he grew up and went to school in the USA) who flew C-141’s in the USAF. When he got out, he moved back to Korea and got hired by KAL. I met him when I gave him some training and a check on the B-737 and of course, he breezed through the training. I give him annual PCs for a few years and he was always a good pilot. Then, he got involved with trying to start a pilots union and when they tired to enforce some sort of duty rigs on international flights, he was fired after being arrested and JAILED!

The Koreans are very very bright and smart so I was puzzled by their inability to fly an airplane well. They would show up on Day 1 of training (an hour before the scheduled briefing time, in a 3-piece suit, and shined shoes) with the entire contents of the FCOM and Flight Manual totally memorized. But, putting that information to actual use was many times impossible. Crosswind landings are also an unsolvable puzzle for most of them. I never did figure it out completely, but I think I did uncover a few clues. Here is my best guess. First off, their educational system emphasizes ROTE memorization from the first day of school as little kids. As you know, that is the lowest form of learning and they act like robots. They are also taught to NEVER challenge authority and in spite of the flight training heavily emphasizing CRM/CLR, it still exists either on the surface or very subtly. You just can’t change 3000 years of culture.

The other thing that I think plays an important role is the fact that there is virtually NO civil aircraft flying in Korea. It’s actually illegal to own a Cessna-152 and just go learn to fly. Ultra-lights and Powered Hang Gliders are Ok. I guess they don’t trust the people to not start WW III by flying 35 miles north of Inchon into North Korea. But, they don’t get the kids who grew up flying (and thinking for themselves) and hanging around airports. They do recruit some kids from college and send then to the US or Australia and get them their tickets. Generally, I had better experience with them than with the ex-Military pilots. This was a surprise to me as I spent years as a Naval Aviator flying fighters after getting my private in light airplanes. I would get experienced F-4, F-5, F-15, and F-16 pilots who were actually terrible pilots if they had to hand fly the airplane. What a shock!

Finally, I’ll get off my box and talk about the total flight hours they claim. I do accept that there are a few talented and free-thinking pilots that I met and trained in Korea. Some are still in contact and I consider them friends. They were a joy! But, they were few and far between and certainly not the norm.

Actually, this is a worldwide problem involving automation and the auto-flight concept. Take one of these new first officers that got his ratings in the US or Australia and came to KAL or Asiana with 225 flight hours. After takeoff, in accordance with their SOP, he calls for the autopilot to be engaged at 250’ after takeoff. How much actual flight time is that? Hardly one minute. Then he might fly for hours on the autopilot and finally disengage it (MAYBE?) below 800’ after the gear was down, flaps extended and on airspeed (autothrottle). Then he might bring it in to land. Again, how much real “flight time” or real experience did he get. Minutes! Of course, on the 777 or 747, it’s the same only they get more inflated logbooks.

So, when I hear that a 10,000 hour Korean captain was vectored in for a 17-mile final and cleared for a visual approach in CAVOK weather, it raises the hair on the back of my neck.

Tom"
Kai D Kravit (VALIS)
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07/09/2013 07:19 PM
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Re: The truth about Asiana Airlines incompetence
got a link ?
Kai D Kravit (VALIS) (OP)

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07/09/2013 07:20 PM
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Re: The truth about Asiana Airlines incompetence
From an email sent out to ALPA pilots. I will attempt to find you some verification if possible.
Kai D Kravit (VALIS)
Kai D Kravit (VALIS) (OP)

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07/09/2013 07:22 PM
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Re: The truth about Asiana Airlines incompetence
got a link ?
 Quoting: Anonymous Coward 33334630


This is the best I can do without giving away this person's full name:

Sent: 7/8/2013 5:42:29 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time
Subj: [retup] Low-down on Korean pilots
Kai D Kravit (VALIS)
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07/09/2013 07:27 PM
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Re: The truth about Asiana Airlines incompetence
I would like to re-post this and get it some attention, but with out any verification it would just be someones story. Its a good read though.
Kai D Kravit (VALIS) (OP)

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United States
07/09/2013 07:28 PM
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Re: The truth about Asiana Airlines incompetence
I would like to re-post this and get it some attention, but with out any verification it would just be someones story. Its a good read though.
 Quoting: Anonymous Coward 33334630


I figured. Apologies. Best I can do. Sometimes we have to take what sounds like the truth and go with it. If it circulates enough, perhaps the sender will take responsibility. It is the enemy's tactic. Use it against them, I say.
Kai D Kravit (VALIS)
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07/09/2013 07:30 PM
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Re: The truth about Asiana Airlines incompetence
Any of you Boeing glass-cockpit guys will know what I mean when I describe these events. I gave them a VOR approach with an 15 mile arc from the IAF. By the way, KAL dictated the profiles for all sessions and we just administered them. He requested two turns in holding at the IAF to get set up for the approach. When he finally got his nerve up, he requested “Radar Vectors” to final. He could have just said he was ready for the approach and I would have cleared him to the IAF and then “Cleared for the approach” and he could have selected “Exit Hold” and been on his way. He was already in LNAV/VNAV PATH. So, I gave him vectors to final with a 30 degree intercept. Of course, he failed to “Extend the FAF” and he couldn’t understand why it would not intercept the LNAV magenta line when he punched LNAV and VNAV. He made three approaches and missed approaches before he figured out that his active waypoint was “Hold at XYZ.” Every time he punched LNAV, it would try to go back to the IAF ... just like it was supposed to do. Since it was a check, I was not allowed (by their own rules) to offer him any help. That was just one of about half dozen major errors I documented in his UNSAT paperwork. He also failed to put in ANY aileron on takeoff with a 30-knot direct crosswind (again, the weather was dictated by KAL).

But 19 "muzzies" that could barely fly a Cessna 152 in a straight line could just hop in the seat and fly on of these babies.

You betcha.
TonyR4096

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07/12/2013 10:02 AM
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Re: The truth about Asiana Airlines incompetence
This problem isn't unique to Korean airline pilots. The late Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard P. Feynman told about his experience teaching as a guest lecturer at a Brazilian university. His students seemed unable to understand the practical implications of what they were learning, and given a set of facts about a natural phenomenon, were unable to reason their way to a solution. On the other hand, they were very good at memorizing the material in the textbook to regurgitate it on tests. He blamed it on a culture that put more emphasis on memorizing facts than understanding.

In the 1980s I worked as an engineer for an American mainframe computer manufacturer, in a group that was responsible for handling technical problems in the field and coming up with emergency engineering fixes, as well as taking suggestions for manufacturing and design improvements from elsewhere in the company. A majority of the change requests coming from the company's Japan division got rejected, as they were usually impractical or unworkable, particularly the software-related issues. All software that was developed in Japan required heavy revision by the U.S. engineers to make it reliable and efficient. I was told that pressure to conform with group consensus is so strong in Japanese culture that individuals with unusual or good ideas were often dragged down to the lowest common denominator or were shunned. As a result, their engineering groups generally produced mediocre results, at best.

I hold a commercial rating in fixed wing and rotary wing aircraft. During training with various instructors over the years I was often criticized and "corrected" for supplying answers to questions that didn't parrot the FAA manuals word-for-word. My attitude was and is that, unless I can answer a question in my own words, I don't really understand the problem or the solution. In aviation, where making correct second-by-second decisions can mean the difference between life and death, referring to the manual to make sure one is using the correct verbiage is usually not an option. You either know what to do or you don't.

Being unable to think and operate autonomously is a cultural problem in many societies around the world. Even though the United States has lead the world in creativity and celebrated the individual through the 19th and 20th centuries, "groupthink" and suppression of individuality has invaded our education system since about 20 years ago. Don't be surprised to see America lose its preeminent position, even in aviation and software.

Last Edited by TonyR4096 on 07/12/2013 10:10 AM
Tony Rodriguez
TonyR4096

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07/12/2013 10:07 AM
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Re: The truth about Asiana Airlines incompetence
But 19 "muzzies" that could barely fly a Cessna 152 in a straight line could just hop in the seat and fly on of these babies.

You betcha.
 Quoting: Anonymous Coward 42929244


You may also recall that instructors at flight schools who trained some of the 19 "muzzies" reported later that their students weren't interested in learning how to land the plane. All they wanted to do was learn how to take off and navigate to a destination. Very curious ...
Tony Rodriguez
Kai D Kravit (VALIS) (OP)

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07/12/2013 11:02 AM
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Re: The truth about Asiana Airlines incompetence
But 19 "muzzies" that could barely fly a Cessna 152 in a straight line could just hop in the seat and fly on of these babies.

You betcha.
 Quoting: Anonymous Coward 42929244


You may also recall that instructors at flight schools who trained some of the 19 "muzzies" reported later that their students weren't interested in learning how to land the plane. All they wanted to do was learn how to take off and navigate to a destination. Very curious ...
 Quoting: TonyR4096


TRUTH.
Kai D Kravit (VALIS)
Amazing Insight!
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United States
07/22/2013 07:27 AM
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Re: The truth about Asiana Airlines incompetence
As a private pilot, I suspected that there must be some fundamental flaw with the pilot training of Asiana Airlines..Now having read this article from someone who has direct experience in training them (or attempting to do so) it all makes sense to me.

What is really scary is the overall dependence on technology to fly the plane. Now I know why the SFO accident happened. There is no excuse for not being able to land that airplane via VFR on a clear day, and to blindly rely on auto-throttle without cross-checking airspeed is just unbelievable to me. One of the first things you learn as a pilot (even us private pilots) is to FLY THE AIRPLANE!!!

Thanks for a very insightful article!!!!
Anonymous Coward
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Korea, Republic of
07/22/2013 07:37 AM
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Re: The truth about Asiana Airlines incompetence
I would like to re-post this and get it some attention, but with out any verification it would just be someones story. Its a good read though.
 Quoting: Anonymous Coward 33334630
EscapeVelocity

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United States
07/22/2013 07:52 AM
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Re: The truth about Asiana Airlines incompetence
As a private pilot, I suspected that there must be some fundamental flaw with the pilot training of Asiana Airlines..Now having read this article from someone who has direct experience in training them (or attempting to do so) it all makes sense to me.

What is really scary is the overall dependence on technology to fly the plane. Now I know why the SFO accident happened. There is no excuse for not being able to land that airplane via VFR on a clear day, and to blindly rely on auto-throttle without cross-checking airspeed is just unbelievable to me. One of the first things you learn as a pilot (even us private pilots) is to FLY THE AIRPLANE!!!

Thanks for a very insightful article!!!!
 Quoting: Amazing Insight! 39747690


Exactly : Aviate-Navigate-Communicate, in that order.

They need to beef up the training regimen or take the men out of the loop and turn the entire show over to the computers...
"I know that the molecules in my body are traceable to phenomena in the cosmos. That makes me want to grab people on the street and say: 'Have you HEARD THIS?" -Neil deGrasse Tyson

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In Death members of Project Mayhem Have a name. His name is James M. Boyd.
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07/22/2013 07:56 AM
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Re: The truth about Asiana Airlines incompetence
But 19 "muzzies" that could barely fly a Cessna 152 in a straight line could just hop in the seat and fly on of these babies.

You betcha.
 Quoting: Anonymous Coward 42929244


You may also recall that instructors at flight schools who trained some of the 19 "muzzies" reported later that their students weren't interested in learning how to land the plane. All they wanted to do was learn how to take off and navigate to a destination. Very curious ...
 Quoting: TonyR4096


the CIA does spin a good yarn
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07/22/2013 08:00 AM
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Re: The truth about Asiana Airlines incompetence
Sum Ting Wong

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