Korean Air (KAL) is facing fresh sanctions and possible fines after suffering a Boeing MD-83 crash and an aborted landing by an Airbus A300-600 just three days later.
Airline analysts say the latest incidents could raise doubts about KAL's joint safety drive with Delta Air Lines, a $114 million programme introduced last year after seven landing incidents within two months involving KAL.
Those incidents led to the South Korean Government imposing a six-month ban on 138 KAL domestic services, beginning late last year, expected to cost the airline $30 million in lost revenue.
Airline sources deny that Delta is considering pulling out of the safety scheme, pointing out that KAL is the US airline's biggest codeshare partner in the region. Delta is understood to be concerned about liability issues arising from its involvement in the safety drive, following the latest incidents. KAL dismisses talk of a Delta pull-out as "just a rumour".
In the latest crash, on 15 March, an MD-83 overran the runway on its second landing attempt at Pohang, in the south east of the country. The aircraft hit a bank at the end of the runway, breaking its fuselage in half and injuring 19 of the 156 passengers and crew on board. KAL says the landing was attempted in rain and high winds.
The crash prompted immediate meetings between the airline's senior management and officials of the Ministry of Construction and Transportation. Talks focused on extending the current flight ban on KAL, although it is understood a fine is also being considered.
According to ministry safety division investigator Lee Gunyoung, the probe is focusing on the performance of the aircraft's brakes and thrust reversers, and on possible pilot error.
Three days after the Pohang crash, on the morning of 18 March, a KAL Airbus A300-600 was involved in an aborted landing at Cheju island. Gunyoung says the aircraft was making an approach in average wind speeds of about 4kt (7.4km/h) when it encountered windshear, which KAL says generated gusts of up to 57kt across the runway close to the ground.
The ministry confirms that the aircraft touched down with one wheel on the grass beside the runway, before taking off again and diverting to nearby Kwangju. Cheju Airport was then shut down for 15min because of high winds and rain. KAL describes the pilot's action as a swift and proper decision, and says there was no damage to the aircraft, and no injuries.
KAL was banned last year from flying to Cheju . Services were reinstated in February after protests from local officials about the ban's effect on tourism.
Source: Flight International