The Asiana Airlines Flight 214 crash earlier today potentially sullies the record of an aircraft considered to be one of the safest in the world.
Reports following the crash have not yet been confirmed, but it is believed that the Asiana crash involving a Boeing 777 killed two passengers and injured at least 70 more out of the 300-plus people on board the plane. Assuming the reports are validated, this would mark the first time a fatal crash had taken place with the 777, which can refer to one of several twin-engined aircraft dating back to 1995.
Boeing records show that the 777 family has flown over five million flights without a single fatal crash prior to the Asiana tragedy. As for the Korea-based full-service airline, the confirmation of initial reports would make this the third fatal crash since Asiana started business in 1988 as a competitor to Korean Air Lines.
There have been no details revealed so far on what could have caused the accident, which involved a 2006 model Boeing 777 that has been in service for seven years. The plane is a 777-200ER, a “mini-jumbo” plane which could hold up to 301 passengers and travel up to 8,800 miles, or 14,300 kilometers. A similar 777-200ER belonging to British Airways had crashed in January 2008, though the crash landing at the London Heathrow airport did not result in any fatalities to passengers or crew. The National Transportation Safety Board announced today that it will be dispatching a team to San Francisco to investigate the crash.
Regarding the 2008 British Airways crash, an investigation was launched, which lasted two years and revealed that the release of ice that had built up from the time it departed from Beijing had led to a fuel blockage. This had spurred on a redesign of the British Rolls-Royce engines that power some members of the 777 family of aircraft.
The investigation also lauded the British Airways pilot for having prevented an actual tragedy from occurring. As for the Asiana accident, the 777-200ER involved was powered by Pratt & Whitney engines; the company said it is working closely with authorities to get to the bottom of what may have led to the crash.
Compared to rival Korean Air, Asiana has had a relatively clean safety record, as the former airline had been involved in a number of accidents between the 1970s and 1990s, some of which were fatal. The last time a fatal crash on a passenger aircraft had occurred on an Asiana plane was in July 1993, when a Boeing 737-500 had crash landed a good distance short of South Korea’s Mokpo airport runway. 68 people were killed in that crash, which took place in inclement weather conditions.
Two years ago, an Asiana Boeing 747-400 crashed in the sea off Jeju Island and killed both pilots; this was a cargo aircraft, and the cause of the accident was a fire in the cargo hold. Korean officials have been working hard since the 1990s to improve safety conditions on flights, and this has since led to a much lower frequency of dangerous incidents involving the country’s airlines.