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Hearing Held on Flight 801 Crash

March 26, 1998

HONOLULU (AP) _ The crew of Flight 801 didn’t follow airline procedures regarding communication with air traffic controllers before careening into a Guam hillside last summer, a Korean Air pilot instructor said at a hearing Wednesday.

The crash killed 228.

Capt. Lee Jung-taek told National Transportation Safety Board investigators the crew did not follow the airline’s policy of ``calling out″ to confirm messages from air traffic controllers, or when executing other in-flight actions, as the Boeing 747 approached Guam International Airport Aug. 6.

``What I felt overall was that the accident crew’s standard call-out compliance was less than what we are taught,″ Lee said through an interpreter.

On Tuesday, the air traffic controller who cleared the plane for its approach to the Guam airport said he had told the crew that a piece of ground-based equipment was not working. The cockpit voice recording shows confusion among the flight crew as to whether the glide slope system was operating.

But Lee said the airline cannot make a complete evaluation of the crew’s performance based on transcripts of conversations found on the plane’s cockpit voice recorder.

Lee’s testimony dominated the second day of hearings into the events surrounding the Aug. 6 crash which killed 228 of the 254 passengers and crew on board. The jet was trying to land during a nighttime thunderstorm at Guam International Airport on a flight from Seoul, South Korea, and crashed less than 5 miles from the runway.

Lee said the airline has changed some of its pilot training and aircraft operating procedures, particularly to emphasize ``calling out,″ in the wake of the third-worst plane crash on U.S. soil.

Family members of those killed in the crash, upset over being denied a chance to speak at the hearing, berated a Korean Air official during a break in the hearing, and had to be pulled away by police.

Problems with translations of questions being asked of Lee, and his answers, also point out possible cultural and language difficulties that may have played a role in the crash.

One issue being debated is whether Korean culture discourages junior members of the flight crew against questioning the senior pilot’s decisions, instrument readings or tower communications.

Lee denied cultural factors contributed to the accident, but Gregory Veith, chief NTSB investigator of the crash, said the three days of hearings would explore those issues.

``We know there are cultural influences in the cockpit, and terminology problems and a communication barrier to some extent,″ Veith said. ``What we are trying to find out now is, to what extent that cultural barrier does exist.″

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