Were Asiana Pilots Drinking? We Might Never Know

Comments (0)


Tue, Jul 9, 2013 at 3:35 PM
click to enlarge NTSB
  • NTSB

After talking to two National Transportation Safety Board officials and one FAA official, we told you yesterday that the pilots involved in Saturday's fatal Asiana Airlines crash at San Francisco International Airport were drug-and-alcohol tested per federal regulations.

Not so, NTSB chairwoman Deborah A. P. Hersman told reporters today:

Because Asiana is a foreign-based carrier, federal authorities don't have the right to mandatory testing of its pilots, she said.

This isn't to suggest the three pilots in the cockpit were tying one on. However, there has been intense focus on the pilots' actions because there was no indication there was mechanical trouble and because the "visual" landing at SFO that day should have been run-of-the-mill.

"None of the crew members on Asiana 214 were tested for drugs and alcohol post-crash," Hersman told reporters today.

Pilots for domestic carriers are required to be tested following accidents, she said. But testing of the Asiana pilots, if done, would be up to the carrier's home country, in this case South Korea. Hersman:

They're deferring to the country to which those air carriers are based.

click to enlarge NTSB
  • NTSB

As we reported yesterday, South Korea has reportedly had difficulty testing its pilots for alcohol; the government has seen resistance on the issue.

See also: Asiana Pilots in SFO Crash Tested for Drugs, Alcohol.

According to China's Global Times:

In May 2011, a pilot with Asiana Airlines failed a random on-site alcohol test right at the flight's boarding gate. It was the third incident of its kind in a year.

Such misbehavior has also been found at other airlines in the country, like Korean Air.

Business insiders say the limited number of qualified pilots in South Korea has made it hard to demand stricter regulations, such as routine alcohol checks.

The Asiana Being 777 was flying significantly slower than the target speed of 137 knots (about 157 miles per hour), causing it to nearly stall, or drop out of sky, just before it crashed into a sea wall at the end of an SFO runway Saturday morning, NTSB officials said.

Hersman said today that the pilots believed they had set the speed at 137 via a cruise-control like "auto-throttle" feature on the jet. Investigators are still trying to determine why the plane was going so much slower, and why pilots apparently began to react to their perilous position only seven seconds before impact.

See also: Chinese Girls Killed in SFO Crash Were Best Friends and Top of Class: China Mourns (PHOTOS).

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Dennis Romero on Twitter at @dennisjromero. Follow LA Weekly News on Twitter at @laweeklynews.

Related Content

Now Trending

Los Angeles Concert Tickets


  • 21st Annual Classic Cars "Cruise Night" in Glendale
    On Saturday, spectators of all ages were out in multitudes on a beautiful summer night in Glendale to celebrate the 21st annual Cruise Night. Brand Boulevard, one of the main streets through downtown Glendale, was closed to traffic and lined with over 250 classic, pre-1979 cars. There was plenty of food to be had and many of the businesses on Brand stayed open late for the festivities The evening ended with fireworks and a 50th anniversary concert from The Kingsmen, who performed their ultimate party hit, "Louie, Louie." All photos by Jared Cowan.
  • The World Cup Celebrated And Mourned By Angelenos
    The World Cup has taken Los Angeles by storm. With viewings beginning at 9 a.m., soccer fans have congregated at some of the best bars in the city including The Village Idiot, Goal, The Parlour on Melrose, Big Wang's and more. Whether they're cheering for their native country, favorite players or mourning the USA's loss, Angelenos have paid close attention to the Cup, showing that soccer is becoming more than a fad. All photos by Daniel Kohn.
  • La Brea Tar Pits "Pit 91" Re-Opening
    Starting June 28th, The Page Museum once again proudly unveils the museum's Observation Pit, which originally opened in 1952 but has spent most of the last half century closed. Now visitors can get an up-close look at Pit 91, which is currently under excavation. The La Brea Tar Pits, home of the Page Museum, is one of the world's most famous ice age fossil locations, known for range of fossils from saber-toothed cats and mammoths to microscopic plants, seeds and insects. The new "Excavator Tour" is free with museum admission if purchased online at tarpits.org . All photos by Nanette Gonzales.