BUSAN, South Korea – The South Korean government on Tuesday launched a special inspection of the country’s largest flag carrier Korean Air Lines Co. after the second incident of a Korean aircraft in as many months has caused safety concerns among the public.
The special safety inspection is expected to last three weeks, according to an official from the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport.
Flight KE763 from Seoul’s Incheon International Airport overran a runway by about 15 meters, as it was landing at Japan’s Niigata Airport. None of its 106 passengers or nine crew members were injured. The aircraft, too, remained intact.
Bitter memories have returned to the country’s number one carrier, as Korean Air’s tumultuous past as one of the world’s worst in airline safety was cause for national embarrassment. Between 1970 and 1999, 16 aircraft had serious incidents and accidents culminating with the loss of over 700 lives. A slew of accidents, including a 1997 crash in Guam that killed 228 people and incidents in Shanghai and Stansted Airport in London which caused 12 more deaths in 1999, resulted in Sky Team member Delta Airlines suspending its code share with Korean Air for nearly three years.
In 2000, the airline began to overhaul its image and hired two executives who worked with U.S. airlines to help improve its safety standards, and by fall of 2001, the Federal Aviation Administration restored its rating of South Korean air safety to the top classification and has kept a near spotless record since, while at the same time becoming a leader in the airline service industry.
The ministry official noted that the government was taking unusually stern measures toward what can only be termed a minor ‘incident’ if not a simple happening. This was partly because of the recent crash-landing of a flight by another South Korean flag carrier, Asiana Airlines Inc., at the San Francisco International Airport, which has so far led to the death of three passengers while injuring some 180 others.
‘It is true that the government is taking more intensified steps than it did in the past. But because of the heightened public concerns over safety following the Asiana Airlines accident, the government will investigate the incident as a way of preventing future accidents, and will take necessary measures,’ Lee said.
Korean Air was ranked 56th out of 60 in an airline safety survey by Hamburg-based Jet Airliner Crash Data Evaluation Centre (JACDEC) in 2012. Asiana ranked 46th.
Busan eFM News contributed to this report.