SEOUL -- As a team of U.S. and South Korean investigators wrap up the initial stage of their probe into the crash landing of an
Herman said analysis of the cockpit voice recorder indicated that until only shortly before impact, the pilots were unaware that the jet was flying far below the target speed and altitude for a safe landing. She added that there was no malfunction of the autopilot, auto-throttle or flight director systems.
South Korean officials are not happy with the NTSB's presentation of that information, or its disclosure that the pilots ordered the passengers to remain seated for 90 seconds after the plane came to a halt, until the cabin crew noticed a fire.
South Korea's Land, Infrastructure and Transport Ministry has said it is worried about the NTSB's quick release of the information, and questioned whether the disclosures are fair and being properly vetted.
On Thursday, at a news briefing, the head of the ministry's aviation bureau, Choi Jeong-ho, raised questions about the role of the San Francisco airport's control tower, noting that controllers gave no warning to the jet before the crash.
Also questioning a report that the pilots were not in their proper seats, Choi said the pilots sat according to what is customary. The ministry asserted that there was no "delay" in the evacuation of the plane, given the situation, and that it was effectively carried out by the cabin crew.
South Korean media outlets have also voiced their dissatisfaction with U.S. investigators, accusing the NTSB of picking and choosing selected information to release.
The U.S. media's look into whether South Korea's hierarchical culture may have contributed to a communication problem between the pilots has triggered heated online debate here as well.
"It is too early in the investigation to blame South Korean culture, before even the black box data analysis has come out," one person posted on the Web.
"It's true that captains acted in an authoritarian way in the cockpit in the past, but that's almost nonexistent now," South Korea's top daily newspaper, Chosun Ilbo, quoted an unidentified airline captain as saying Thursday. "It's unimaginable for a captain to ignore the first officer in an emergency."
South Korea has expressed deep regret over the incident. President
The NTSB report that will officially determine the cause of the crash is expected in about a year.