NTSB Risks Skewing Asiana Crash Probe, Korea Pilots’ Unions Say

The National Transportation Safety Board’s emphasis on “possibility of a pilot error” as the cause of the crash of Asiana Flight 214 this month could affect the results of the investigation, two unions said.

The Asiana Pilots Union and Air Line Pilots Association of Korea have communicated “concerns about the possibility of inaccurately identifying the cause of the accident” on a San Francisco runway because the NTSB’s press conferences have focused on whether pilot error or speed played a role, according to a statement yesterday.

“The purpose of an accident investigation is not to benefit national interest of one country or enhance the corporate image of an airline, but to prevent the same or similar accidents from occurring in the future,” according to the statement. “The investigation must rule out any elements, including any prejudices or intended plans, which could affect the result of an investigation.”

The pilots of Asiana Airlines Inc. (020560)’s Flight 214 made no mention of the plane’s speed in its final moments until less than nine seconds before it hit a seawall on July 6, NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman said at a July 11 briefing. From the time the plane descended below 500 feet, the first mention of speed is heard after an automated system called out an altitude of 100 feet, Hersman said.

‘Variety of Factors’

“The NTSB has not narrowed the scope of the investigation to any one area of focus,” the agency’s spokeswoman Kelly Nantel said in an e-mailed statement. “We continue to look into a variety of factors that may be causal or may have contributed to the accident.”

A pilot from the Asiana union has been sent to the accident site to help with the investigation, according to the unions’ statement.

South Korean government said last week that it plans to draw up stricter aviation rules in about three months as the crash raises concerns about the nation’s safety regulations.

Three people were killed while more than 300 survived after Asiana’s Boeing Co. 777 crashed, the first fatal airline accident in the U.S. since 2009. It was South Korea’s first passenger jet crash since 1997. In July 2011, an Asiana cargo freighter plane went down at sea south of Jeju island.

To contact the reporter on this story: Matthew Leising in New York at mleising@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Sylvia Wier at swier@bloomberg.net

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