posted on Jul, 11 2013 @ 01:28 AM
An email from Tom:
After I retired from UAL as a Standards Captain on the –400, I got a job as a simulator instructor working for Alteon (a Boeing subsidiary) at
Asiana. When I first got there, I was shocked and surprised by the lack of basic piloting skills shown by most of the pilots. It is not a normal
situation with normal progression from new hire, right seat to left seat taking a decade or two. One big difference is that ex-Military pilots are
given super-seniority and progress to the left seat much faster. Compared to the US, they also upgrade fairly rapidly because of the phenomenal growth
by all Asian air carriers. By the way, after about six months at Asiana, I was moved over to KAL and found them to be identical. The only difference
was the color of the uniforms and airplanes. I worked in Korea for 5 long years and although I found most of the people to be very pleasant, it’s a
minefield of a work environment ... for them and for us expats.
One of the first things I learned was that the pilots kept a web-site and reported on every training session. I don’t think this was officially
sanctioned by the company, but after one or two simulator periods, a database was building on me (and everyone else) that told them exactly how I ran
the sessions, what to expect on checks, and what to look out for. For example; I used to open an aft cargo door at 100 knots to get them to initiate
an RTO and I would brief them on it during the briefing. This was on the B-737 NG and many of the captains were coming off the 777 or B744 and they
were used to the Master Caution System being inhibited at 80 kts. Well, for the first few days after I started that, EVERYONE rejected the takeoff.
Then, all of a sudden they all “got it” and continued the takeoff (in accordance with their manuals). The word had gotten out. I figured it was an
overall PLUS for the training program.
We expat instructors were forced upon them after the amount of fatal accidents (most of them totally avoidable) over a decade began to be noticed by
the outside world. They were basically given an ultimatum by the FAA, Transport Canada, and the EU to totally rebuild and rethink their training
program or face being banned from the skies all over the world. They hired Boeing and Airbus to staff the training centers. KAL has one center and
Asiana has another. When I was there (2003-2008) we had about 60 expats conducting training KAL and about 40 at Asiana. Most instructors were from the
USA, Canada, Australia, or New Zealand with a few stuffed in from Europe and Asia. Boeing also operated training centers in Singapore and China so
they did hire some instructors from there.
This solution has only been partially successful but still faces ingrained resistance from the Koreans. I lost track of the number of highly qualified
instructors I worked with who were fired because they tried to enforce “normal” standards of performance. By normal standards, I would include
being able to master basic tasks like successfully shoot a visual approach with 10 kt crosswind and the weather CAVOK. I am not kidding when I tell
you that requiring them to shoot a visual approach struck fear in their hearts ... with good reason. Like this Asiana crew, it didn’t’ compute
that you needed to be a 1000’ AGL at 3 miles and your sink rate should be 600-800 Ft/Min. But, after 5 years, they finally nailed me. I still had to
sign my name to their training and sometimes if I just couldn’t pass someone on a check, I had no choice but to fail them. I usually busted about
3-5 crews a year and the resistance against me built. I finally failed an extremely incompetent crew and it turned out he was a high-ranking captain
who was the Chief Line Check pilot on the fleet I was teaching on. I found out on my next monthly trip home that KAL was not going to renew my Visa.
The crew I failed was given another check and continued a fly while talking about how unfair Captain Brown was.
Any of you Boeing glass-cockpit guys will know what I mean when I describe these events. I gave them a VOR approach with a 15 mile arc from the IAF.
By the way, KAL dictated the profiles for all sessions and we just administered them. He requested two turns in holding at the IAF to get set up for
the approach. When he finally got his nerve up, he requested “Radar Vectors” to final. He could have just said he was ready for the approach and I
would have cleared him to the IAF and then “Cleared for the approach” and he could have selected “Exit Hold” and been on his way. He was
already in LNAV/VNAV PATH. So, I gave him vectors to final with a 30 degree intercept. Of course, he failed to “Extend the FAF” and he couldn’t
understand why it would not intercept the LNAV magenta line when he punched LNAV and VNAV. He made three approaches and missed approaches before he
figured out that his active waypoint was “Hold at XYZ.” Every time he punched LNAV, it would try to go back to the IAF ... just like it was
supposed to do. Since it was a check, I was not allowed (by their own rules) to offer him any help. That was just one of about half dozen major errors
I documented in his UNSAT paperwork. He also failed to put in ANY aileron on takeoff with a 30-knot direct crosswind (again, the weather was dictated
This Asiana SFO accident makes me sick and while I am surprised there are not more, I expect that there will be many more of the same type accidents
in the future unless some drastic steps are taken. They are already required to hire a certain percentage of expats to try to ingrain more flying
expertise in them, but more likely, they will eventually be fired too. One of the best trainees I ever had was a Korean/American (he grew up and went
to school in the USA) who flew C-141’s in the USAF. When he got out, he moved back to Korea and got hired by KAL. I met him when I gave him some
training and a check on the B-737 and of course, he breezed through the training. I give him annual PCs for a few years and he was always a good
pilot. Then, he got involved with trying to start a pilots union and when they tried to enforce some sort of duty rigs on international flights, he
was fired after being arrested and JAILED!
The Koreans are very, very bright and smart so I was puzzled by their inability to fly an airplane well. They would show up on Day 1 of training (an
hour before the scheduled briefing time, in a 3-piece suit, and shined shoes) with the entire contents of the FCOM and Flight Manual totally
memorized. But, putting that information to actual use was many times impossible. Crosswind landings are also an unsolvable puzzle for most of them. I
never did figure it out completely, but I think I did uncover a few clues. Here is my best guess. First off, their educational system emphasizes ROTE
memorization from the first day of school as little kids. As you know, that is the lowest form of learning and they act like robots. They are also
taught to NEVER challenge authority and in spite of the flight training heavily emphasizing CRM/CLR, it still exists either on the surface or very
subtly. You just can’t change 3000 years of culture.
The other thing that I think plays an important role is the fact that there is virtually NO civil aircraft flying in Korea. It’s actually illegal to
own a Cessna-152 and just go learn to fly. Ultra-lights and Powered Hang Gliders are Ok. I guess they don’t trust the people to not start WW III by
flying 35 miles north of Inchon