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 due to construction, according to an investigative report released Wednesday.
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.
Though Lee was an experienced pilot with the Korea-based airline, he was a trainee in the Boeing 777.
NTSB investigator Bill English said Lee had less than 45 hours experience in the Boeing 777 and he last piloted a jet into San Francisco in 2004.
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.
Lee was nervous about attempting to land using "stick and rudder" flying skills. Pilots spend more time managing computer systems than manually flying planes, systems that are more precise and use less fuel than a human pilot.
When asked if he was concerned about his ability to perform the visual approach, Lee said "very concerned, yeah."
"This pilot should never have taken off," said attorney Ilyas Akbari, whose firm represents 14 of the passengers. "The fact that the pilot was stressed and nervous is a testament to the inadequate training he received, and those responsible for his training and for certifying his competency bear some of the culpability for the tragedy of this crash."
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 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 Lee as "not well organized or prepared," according to the investigative report.
Recordings from the cockpit show Lee took over the controls as the autopilot disconnected when the plane was about 1,500 feet above San Francisco's bay and closing in fast on the airport.