- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 11, 2013

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Asiana Airlines captain who crashed a Boeing 777 at San Francisco International Airport in July told investigators he was “very concerned” about attempting a visual approach because the runway’s automatic landing aids were out of service because of construction, according to an investigative report released Wednesday.

Capt. Lee Kang-kuk, a 46-year-old pilot who was landing the big jet for his first time at San Francisco, “stated it was very difficult to perform a visual approach with a heavy airplane.”

The jet crash-landed after approaching low and slow in an accident that left three dead and more than 200 injured, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.

A visual approach involves lining the jet up for landing by looking through the windshield as well as using numerous automated cues.

The investigative report was released at the start of a daylong NTSB hearing into the accident.

The wreckage of an Asiana Airlines Boeing 777 is pictured after it crashed while landing at the San Francisco International Airport in San Francisco on Saturday, July 6, 2013. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
The wreckage of an Asiana Airlines Boeing 777 is pictured after it ... more >

“In this hearing, we will learn about the facts of the crash, but we will also learn about the factors that enabled so many to walk away,” said NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman, opening the hearing. “We will focus not only on the human machine interface in highly automated aircraft, but also on emergency response.”

Though Mr. Lee was an experienced pilot, he was a trainee on the Boeing 777.

NTSB investigator Bill English said Mr. Lee had less than 45 hours’ experience in the Boeing 777 and it was his first trip to San Francisco since 2004.

Mr. Lee told investigators that he realized others had been safely landing at San Francisco without the glide slope indicator, an array of antennas that transmits a signal into the cockpit, helping ensure the plane is landing correctly.

That system was out of service while the runway was expanded and has since been restarted.

But Mr. Lee also told investigators he was “not so confident” about his knowledge of the plane’s auto flight system.

When asked if he was concerned about his ability to perform the visual approach, Lee said, “Very concerned, yeah.”

Mr. Lee said he told his instructors about his concerns in the flight’s planning stages. He told investigators that as he realized his approach was off, he was worried he might “fail his flight and would be embarrassed.”

Another Asiana pilot who recently flew with Mr. Lee told investigators that he was not sure if the trainee captain was making normal progress and that he did not perform well during a trip two days before the accident. That captain described Mr. Lee as “not well organized or prepared,” according to the investigative report.

According to the NTSB’s transcript of the Asiana plane’s cockpit voice recorder, the Korean crew did not comment on the jet’s low approach until it reached 200 feet above ground.

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