Gov’t to carry out safety inspections at local airlines
In the wake of a series of parts failures in aircraft operated by local airlines, the government will carry out emergency safety checks on all the carriers next month.
Officials from the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport held an emergency meeting with executives and engineers from the nine carriers Wednesday to discuss ways to improve aviation safety.
The meeting comes five days after a Jeju Air plane made an emergency return to its departure point following a defect in its autopilot. The leading budget airliner’s B737-800NG jet took off from Gimhae International Airport in Busan for Seoul, but 10 minutes later, an autopilot warning light was activated, leading flight attendants to tell passengers to prepare for a possible emergency landing. The aircraft landed at Gimhae 44 minutes following take off, after circling the airport.
A fuel valve problem in a Korean Air plane delayed a flight, Oct. 25, while an engine of an Asiana Airlines aircraft caught fire during testing Oct. 18.
Starting November, aviation inspectors will conduct a two-step comprehensive safety check on the country’s two full-service and seven low-cost carriers before the winter peak season in December, the transport ministry said.
During November, the inspection will first cover emergency response training for pilots, the maintenance of aircraft and parts prone to failure, and operational control in the event of adverse weather.
Afterwards, they will check on how well airlines are following safety management procedures, conduct health examinations on crewmembers, and look into communication protocols between pilots and flight attendants in emergencies. These reviews will take place by the end of the year.
During the meeting, a representative of Jeju Air said the budget carrier will devise its own measures by the end of next month to make up for the botched response to the emergency return.
The ministry and the airlines also talked about issues linked to Boeing 737 NG planes.
Currently, nine 737 NGs have been grounded for cracks in the spars that attach their wings to the fuselage. In September, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration issued an order for airlines to inspect their Boeing 737 NG planes after the manufacturer alerted it to the crack issue.
There are 150 737 NGs in Korea and the transport ministry ordered inspections of 42 of them which had accumulated over 30,000 flights, with nine turning out to have the cracks. Safety checks on the remaining planes are set to be completed in the coming months.
According to the ministry, Boeing engineers will come to Korea next month to repair them, and afterward local aviation inspectors will check whether they are safe to fly.