Pilots on Asiana’s Crashed Plane to Work as Ground Staff

Two pilots on the Asiana Airlines Inc. plane that crash-landed at a San Francisco airport in July will return to work as ground staff, the company said.

The pilots, Lee Kang Kuk and Lee Jung Min, will return to work as early as this week, Lee Hyo Min, a spokeswoman for the Seoul-based airline, said today. Their specific roles haven’t been determined, she said.

Manual flying skills and cockpit teamwork are part of the U.S. probe into the crash of Asiana Flight 214, which struck a seawall short of the San Francisco airport on July 6, killing three people. Lee Kang Kuk was in control of the Boeing Co. 777 plane and was being trained by Lee Jung Min on the flight. More than 300 people survived the crash, the first fatal airline accident in the U.S. since 2009.

Spokeswoman Lee declined to comment on whether the two pilots will resume flying in the future.

Asiana fell 0.8 percent to 5,000 won in Seoul trading. The stock has fallen 19 percent this year, compared with a 0.1 percent climb in South Korea’s benchmark Kospi index.

Lee Kang Kuk, 46, logged 9,793 flight hours before the accident. Only 43 were on the 777, after he moved up from the narrow-body Boeing 737, and he was making his first trip to San Francisco on the wide-body aircraft.

Lee Jung Min, 49, a Korea Aerospace University graduate who joined Asiana in 1996, had flown 12,387 hours, including 3,220 on the 777.

Two other pilots on Flight 214 returned to flying last month, spokeswoman Lee said.

Safety Standards

Asiana, South Korea’s second-biggest airline, plans to expand instruction for air crew and begin an outside review of safety standards, it said last month. Pilots will get more hours in flight simulators to prepare for approaches to airports without landing guidance systems.

The carrier said it will also hire another company to evaluate its procedures, add safety specialists and boost maintenance.

Lee Kang Kuk was using a visual approach the day of the accident because the instrument landing system’s glide slope, which helps line up the correct path to the runway, was closed for construction. Former Asiana pilots and trainers have said in interviews that the company’s pilots were well trained on automatic systems, yet rarely flew manually.

It was Asiana’s first fatal accident since a Boeing 747 cargo plane went down at sea in the southern part of South Korea in July 2011.

Yonhap reported the news earlier today.

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