At a National Transportation Safety Board today, experts testified that, well, Korean culture may have played a role in the accident:
In the crucial minutes before an Asiana Airlines flight crashed in San Francisco last summer, the pilots voiced concern about the plane’s low speed but did nothing to correct it until just before it hit the ground.
A hearing on Wednesday into the July 6 crash that killed three people and injured more than 180, highlighted the pilots’ mistaken reliance on the autopilot to maintain their airspeed but also Korean cultural factors that may have played a role and the design of the flight controls.
What cultural factors, you ask? Well, if interviews with the pilot are anything to go by, then these ones:
Captain Lee told investigators that any of the three pilots on the plane could have decided to break off the approach, but he said it was “very hard” for him to do so because he was a “low-level” person being supervised by an instructor pilot.
He also said that as the plane approached, he was momentarily blinded by a light on the runway, possibly a reflection of the sun, but that he would not wear sunglasses because that was considered impolite among Koreans.
I don’t know. The sunglasses comment makes me wonder if perhaps this is more of a “military culture” thing than anything else. Military folk in particular love the shades—see Park Chung-hee, the MPs at the DMZ, etc.—but junior officers won’t wear shades in front of their superior officers. Or so I’m told.
I’ll let the folk who actually know about such things do the talking, though.