The crash of Asiana Airlines’ Boeing 777 jet at San Francisco International Airport is a wake-up call for the Korean aviation industry, which enjoys a good global reputation for safety.
In the mid-1990s, Korea’s two flag carriers — Asiana and its bigger rival Korean Air — suffered a string of fatal incidents, which led to a downgrading of the nation’s aviation safety rating in 1999.
The humiliation prompted the Seoul government to undertake a comprehensive reform of its aviation regulatory system. It revised aviation laws, increased the number of government inspectors and enlisted the assistance of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration to meet international safety standards.
The two airlines also made painstaking efforts to upgrade their safety culture. For instance, Korean Air invited two U.S. experts to help improve its safety standards.
Thanks to these efforts, Korea had no fatal air crashes for 12 years between 1999 and 2011. The long streak was broken when an Asiana freighter crashed in waters off the coast of Jejudo Island two years ago.
In 2008, the International Civil Aviation Organization ranked Korea’s aviation safety standards, including its pilot training and maintenance, as the highest among its 191 member countries.
This outstanding track record might have fostered a dangerous sense of complacency among airline companies and regulators.
For flights to dangerous airports, they need to arrange preflight sessions for the flight and cabin crew to alert them to the obstacles and ensure that they follow safe landing and takeoff procedures.
Carriers should take it to heart that safety comes before anything else. It only takes one accident to wipe out years of hard effort to establish a reputation as a safe carrier.
The Korea Herald