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[From the Scene] Korean Air's new operations center highlights full commitment to safety

May 23, 2024 - 17:43 By Kim Hae-yeon
Korean Air's maintenance hangar, located at its headquarters in Gimpo (Korean Air)

GIMPO, Gyeonggi Province -- Korean Air has unveiled its newly revamped Operations and Customer Center after 23 years, emphasizing the airline's increased focus on risk management in light of variables such as the merger with Asiana Airlines and the introduction of newer aircraft.

"Air operations are possible only when real-time communications, from transportation to operation to cabin maintenance, are smoothly organized and seamlessly prepared," said Korean Air President Woo Kee-hong during press conference held Thursday morning at the company's headquarters in Gimpo. "The public often regards 'service' as the core of airline operations, but more than 80 percent of Korean Air's 20,000 employees are involved in ‘safety’ related mission. This shows our high level of awareness and technological prowess in safe operations," Woo added.

The company showcased key facilities for safe operation throughout the conference, including the OCC, maintenance hangars, cabin training centers and aviation medical centers.

Korean Air staff working at its new Operations and Customer Center in Gimpo, Thursday (Korean Air)
A flight manager at the Korean Air's General Control Center communicates with the captain of flight KE082 arriving at Incheon International Airport, on Thursday. (Korean Air)

Upon entering the OCC, known as the 24-hour control room on ground, the large wall-mounted screen immediately stood out.

"We have received light turbulence information, but recommend the same route as there seems to be no significant impact. Please be careful as slight turbulence is expected three hours later," a flight manager at the Korean Air's General Control Center spoke to the captain of flight KE082 arriving at Incheon International Airport from New York's JFK International Airport. Accurate and fast communication with the captain was facilitated real-time based on big data from previous aircraft routes.

The largest screen in the center displays real-time flights of Korean Air, while a broadcast news screen on the left shows major global issues such as terrorism, disasters and natural calamities. The OCC also monitors ground traffic and ramp operations at Gimpo and Incheon International airports 24 hours a day.

Newly opened with the latest facilities since the end of 2023, the OCC employs a total of 240 experts from 11 departments working in three shifts. It oversees approximately 400 flights daily, managing from flight monitoring to abnormal situation responses.

Meanwhile, the Korean Air Aviation Safety Strategy Office comprehensively manages safety-related factors in all areas of aircraft operation and non-operation. Over 50 employees here are seasoned veterans in safety division, from accident prevention and evaluation to investigation and recovery.

"After the runway departure incident in October 2022, we partnered with Oliver Wyman and Delta Safety Group for a thorough safety diagnosis,” said Yoo Jong-seok, executive director and chief safety and operating officer. “Since then, we achieved a safety and performance target of 1.53 in 2023 and recorded an accident probability of 1.08 per 10,000 flights.”

Korean Air is also renowned for its extensive aircraft maintenance capabilities, employing about 3,100 maintenance personnel.

The airline operates five maintenance hangars and engine and parts maintenance factories in Incheon, Gimpo, Bucheon and Busan.

The hangar at Gimpo's headquarters, a 180-meter-long and 90-meter-wide facility, can accommodate three aircraft simultaneously: two large and one medium or small aircraft.

In Bucheon and Incheon, aircraft engine maintenance plants perform the highest maintenance stage, overhaul, involving the disassembly, inspection, repair and restoration of engine parts. Korean Air is adding a new engine maintenance plant next to the Engine Test Cell in Incheon’s Yeongjongdo.

"As we are preparing for our next leap with the integration with Asiana Airlines, we will keep up with highest standards regarding safety, and in the future work to ensure that we maintain this standard after our possible merger as well," Yoo said.

As of May, Korean Air has a fleet of 161 aircraft, including 138 passenger planes and 23 cargo planes, servicing 110 cities in 39 countries.

Korean Air is awaiting the last approval from US authorities for its merger with Asiana Airlines, Korea's second-largest domestic carrier. If granted, of which the airline expects to be decided by the end of this year, the merger could position Korean Air as one of the world's top ten mega-carriers, according to industry reports.