Asiana 747 cargo plane crashes after reporting fire

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Asiana 747 cargo plane crashes after reporting fire

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Members of the Jeju Coast Guard remove wreckage of an Asiana Airlines cargo plane that crashed yesterday in waters west of Jeju Island. [YONHAP]


An Asiana Airlines Boeing 747 cargo plane crashed yesterday morning after reporting a fire onboard. The two pilots are missing and likely dead, authorities said.

The airplane, bound for Pudong, China, from Incheon International Airport, turned back toward Jeju International Airport after reporting the fire about an hour into the flight, but it crashed before being able to make it to Jeju.

The Jeju Coast Guard found debris and parts of the plane at sea about 122 kilometers (76 miles) southwest of Jeju, authorities said.

Asiana Flight OZ991 left Incheon at 3:05 a.m., but after detecting a fire in the cargo area, the pilots turned back. The plane disappeared from radar at 4:12 a.m. and the wreckage was found by the Coast Guard about two hours after the disappearance.

“We only can say that an in-flight fire, which occurred in the plane’s freight cargo, could be the reason for the crash because the pilots told us about the fire right before they disappeared from the radar,” a spokesman for the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs said. “But we can’t say how the fire occurred, though there were inflammable materials in the cargo. And also, we are not sure whether there was an explosion.”

The two pilots were Capt. Choi Sang-gi, 52, and Lee Jeong-woong, 44. Choi has 14,000 hours of flying experience and has worked for the airline since 1991. Lee, the co-pilot, has 5,211 flying hours and joined the company in 2007.

The plane was carrying 58 tons of cargo, including semiconductors, electronic components and woven goods. However, a quarter ton of the cargo included inflammable material, like lithium batteries, paint, amino acid liquid and synthetic resins.

The airline said that all of the goods were loaded in accordance with guidelines from the International Air Transport Association.

“The Aviation and Railway Accident Investigation Board will examine the cause of the accident,” a Land Ministry spokesman said. “We expect to find the exact cause as well as secure the plane’s black box and the CVR [cockpit voice recorder].

“This is the first time in Korean history that a domestic aircraft crashed due to fire,” the spokesman said, adding that because of the fire, “we expect to experience more difficulty in finding the reason for the crash.”

Investigators will also consider other reasons for the crash, including pilot error, mechanical defects and weather conditions.

The Jeju Coast Guard is using five patrol ships and a helicopter in the search and has collected parts of the plane, including the cockpit seats and parts of the plane’s wings. But the search was proving difficult because of strong winds and high seas.


By Choi Ji-young, Kwon Sang-soo [sakwon80@joongang.co.kr]


한글 관련 기사 [중앙일보]

“화물칸 불났다” 교신 9분 후…

아시아나 화물기 제주 해상 추락 … 조종사 2명 실종


국토해양부 김한영 항공정책실장은 28일 “아시아나항공 소속 보잉 747 화물기는 화물칸에 있던 리튬배터리나 아미노산용액 같은 인화성 물품에서 화재가 발생해 추락한 것으로 보인다”고 말했다.

 항공기(B747-400F)에는 반도체와 기계전자 부품 등 58t의 화물이 실려 있었다. 이 중 리튬배터리나 합성수지 같은 인화성 물품은 0.4t가량이다. 항공기는 이날 오전 3시5분 인천공항을 출발해 중국 상하이(上海) 푸둥(浦東)공항으로 향하던 중 오전 4시12분쯤 제주 서남쪽 130㎞ 해상에 떨어졌다. 국토부 김 항공실장은 “기장이 오전 4시3분쯤 상하이 관제소와 ‘화물칸에서 화재가 났다’고 마지막 교신을 했다”며 “기장이 화재를 감지하고 제주공항으로 회항하던 중 추락한 것으로 추정된다”고 말했다. 기장 최상기(52)씨와 부기장 이정웅(43)씨 등 두 명의 탑승자 생사는 확인되지 않고 있다.

 국토부와 해경은 해군 초계기와 해경 수색함을 급파해 사고 현장에서 구명정, 부유물, 기름띠 등을 발견했으며, 비행기록장치(블랙박스) 등을 수색 중이다. 아시아나항공은 전남 해남에서 여객기 충돌 사고(1993년) 이후 18년 만에 사고를 냈다.

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