Asiana Airlines changing pilot training after US crash
Executives of South Korea's Asiana Airlines say they're altering its pilot training program to encourage communication among senior managers and subordinates, after a July plane crash in San Francisco that killed three people and injured dozens.
A U.S. hearing into the crash revealed one of the pilots said he did not feel he had the authority to abort a low-speed landing as individuals at a "higher level" had to make that decision, Reuters reported.
"It's a reality that within our country there is a leaning toward a patriarchal culture and many pilots work and fly within the strict military order," Asiana's chief executive, Kim Soo-cheon, said Monday at a press conference in Seoul, Reuters reported.
Kim's comments Monday are his first public statements about Asiana's corporate culture since the Boeing 777 crash-landed on a San Francisco International Airport runway and injured about 180 people.
The changes at Asiana, South Korea's second-largest carrier, follow a July 9 CNBC.com article that outlined South Korea's aviation industry, which already had faced skepticism about its safety since a few deadly crashes beginning in the 1980s.
The CNBC.com article detailed Korea's cockpit culture and aviation training that stresses a deference to seniority, which can make it challenging for younger employees to speak up in workplaces without repercussions. Many Korean commercial pilots also are air force veterans, who have been trained in a military culture that again emphasizes hierarchy. Young South Korean men must serve mandatory military service.
(Read more: Korean culture may offer clues in Asiana crash)
"If that's how he [the pilot] thinks, that's because of how he was trained, not because he's Korean," David Greenberg, president of Compass Group, Aviation Consulting and Development, based outside Chicago, told CNBC.com late Monday.
Greenberg, also a 28-year Delta Air Lines veteran, served as executive vice president of operations for five years at another Korean airline, Korean Air—beginning in 2000 after a series of fatal Korean Air flights. That incident's cockpit culture was detailed in Malcolm Gladwell's book, "Outliers."
"It's not just Asian culture. Under any country's laws, the carrier has the responsibility to ensure the highest level of safety to the passenger," Greenberg said. Effective training that's compatible with cultures is key, he said. "I didn't change the Korean culture. I figured out a way to present information that's compatible with their culture," Greenberg said.
Since September, Asiana has been strengthening its pilot training including out-of-office gatherings and the recommendation that all members of the flight crew address each other with honorifics while working, regardless of rank, Asiana CEO Kim said. Traditionally in Korean culture, an honorific form of communication—which requires more words and is more oblique—often is used for someone older or who holds a more senior position.
The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board investigation into the crash remains ongoing.