Korean Carriers Subject to Government Safety Probe

 - October 30, 2019, 9:27 AM
An Asiana Airlines Airbus A380 takes off from Los Angeles International Airport. (Photo: Flickr: Creative Commons (BY) by beltz6)

Mounting concerns over a rash of recent incidents varying from engine fires to component malfunctions have prompted South Korea’s transport ministry to carry out a two-step emergency safety check on all local carriers, beginning next month.

In an emergency safety meeting held Wednesday, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport said all nine airlines will initially undergo evaluation of maintenance procedures, particularly on components experiencing recurring failures. Authorities will also perform a review of operational control procedures during inclement weather conditions and provide emergency response training for pilots.

The second step will involve an examination of all safety management system (SMS) procedures, health examination checks for crew members, and communication protocols between flight crew, including pilots and cabin crew, during in-flight emergencies. The ministry said authorities would complete the checks by year-end. During the meeting, a spokesperson from Jeju Air said it will carry out its own emergency checks and training in November, including in-flight emergency response training as well as strengthening communications between flight crew and air traffic control.

The announcement comes five days after low-cost carrier Jeju Air experienced an autopilot malfunction, forcing one of its Boeing 737-800s to return to Busan’s Gimhae International Airport. The same day also saw national airline Korean Air Lines delayed over a fuel valve failure. In mid-October, South Korea’s second-largest carrier, Asiana Airlines, experienced its second engine failure in three months, after an A380 engine caught fire while refueling at Incheon International Airport in Seoul. The carrier also reported a loss of cabin pressure involving an A330-300 in early September.

Meanwhile, Boeing representatives plan to visit South Korea sometime in November over the grounding of nine 737NGs due to structural cracks. In late September, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued an airworthiness directive for Boeing 737NG operators after inspections of the wing-to-fuselage attach points uncovered cracks in assemblies—called pickle forks. Of the 150 737NGs operating in South Korea, 42 aircraft underwent inspection, nine of which exhibited structural cracks, including five from Korean Air’s fleet. The transport ministry said Boeing would carry out repairs and inspections of the grounded airplanes.

In a separate development, startup carrier Air Premia is preparing entry into the Korean market after inking a provisional agreement with Boeing on Tuesday for the purchase of five 787-9 Dreamliners, valued at $1.4 billion at list prices. The announcement follows a deal made by the Seoul-based carrier in April to lease three 787-9 jets from Air Lease Corporation. Air Premia has laid plans to launch regional service in September 2020, long-haul flights in 2021, and introduce a total of 10 787-9s by 2024.