Asiana Airlines, the country‘s No. 2 flag carrier, will be reprimanded for violating flight safety regulations by flying for hours after discovering an engine problem, the government said Friday.
According to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, the pilots of Asiana flight OZ603 flying from Incheon International Airport (IIA) to Saipan last Saturday did not follow the established precautions after a problem was found in one of its engines.
The twin-engined B767 passenger jet was carrying 253 passengers when a warning light came on about a hour after takeoff, indicating there was a blockage in one of its engine oil filters.
“The flight crew used the quick reference manual to try to solve the problem, but they were unable to shut off the alarm even after reducing power to the engine,” a ministry official said. He said at this point, the pilots should have returned to IIA or diverted to the nearest alternate airport, but they flew four more hours and eventually landed in Saipan using one engine.
On arrival, engineers on the ground discovered the filter clogged with metallic particles. It said the engine was changed due to abrasion damage, with a new unit flown out to the Pacific island from South Korea.
“The crew broke the rules, and the matter will be dealt with in a firm manner,” the official stressed.
He said a final verdict will be made by the 47-person flight safety committee made up of government officials and civilian experts that will be convened in due course.
Violating safety rules can result in the grounding of all pilots involved for 30 days and a ban on the airline servicing the route for up to seven days. The carrier can also be slapped with a 10 million won ($9,630) fine.
The ministry said it will check Asiana‘s maintenance procedures and how pilots, service personnel and the flight management teams communicate with each other and make decisions. It said depending on the results of these findings, additional action can be taken.
Asiana said it accepted the reprimand and will offer full assistance to any investigation.
“We accept responsibility and will do our utmost to ensure the safety of all our flights,” a company insider said. He added that the pilots that flew the B767 will be grounded pending a final ruling by the safety committee.
The latest development follows the crash landing of Asiana B777 at San Francisco International Airport in July that resulted in the death of three passengers.
The investigation in still ongoing, but Asiana has already admitted that the pilots were partially responsible for the fatal accident.