Air Transport World

Basic training.

Korean Air revamps its approach to pilot training and flight operations in an effort to improve a dismal safety record

Management experts say it often takes a traumatic event to force a company to change its culture; in some instances the business has to hit bottom. For Korean Air the bottom arrived last April 16 when Delta Air Lines suspended its codesharing relationship owing to the crash of a Korean Air MD-11 freighter shortly after takeoff from Shanghai the day before. Air Canada and Air France subsequently suspended their codesharing relationships with Korean as well.

The MD-11 crash, which killed the three-person flight crew and at least five people on the ground, was only the latest in a series of accidents and incidents that already had resulted in the president of the country calling the airline a national embarrassment. Only a few weeks before the MD-11 went down, an MD-82 was destroyed in a landing accident at Phoang in which, miraculously, no one was killed. A 747-400 had to be written off for insurance purposes after another botched landing in August 1998. And of course, in August 1997 a 747-300 crashed on approach to Guam, killing 228. All told, Korean Air has sustained at least 12 accidents and serious incidents this decade.

Following the MD-11F crash, the cause of which is still under investigation, South Korea President Kim Dae-Jung demanded fundamental changes at the airline, temporarily restricted it from adding new routes, and awarded a package of routes to competitor Asiana. …

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