Saturday, 6 August 2022

Remembering Korean Air 801

KOREAN AIR A380-861 HL-7622 (CN 128)

45 yrs ago today Korean Air Flight 801 crashed on Nimitz Hill in Asan, Guam, while on approach to Antonio B. Won Pat International Airport (IATA:GUM, ICAO: PGUM), also known as Guam International Airport.  KE801 was a scheduled international passenger flight operated by Korean Air which travelled from Kimpo International Airport (IATA: GMP / ICAO: RKSS) to Guam. The flight crashed on the 6th August 1997, while on approach to Antonio Airport, killing 228 of the 254 people aboard. The National Transportation Safety Board cites poor communication between the flight crew as probable cause for the crash, along with the captain’s poor decision making on the non-precision approach. Flight 801 departed from Seoul-Kimpo International Airport (now Gimpo Airport) at 8:53 p.m. on the 5th August on its way to Guam. It carried three flight crew members (the two pilots and the flight engineer), 14 flight attendants, and 237 passenger a total of 254 people. Six of the passengers were Korean Air flight attendants, who were deadheading. (Deadheading is the practice of carrying, free of charge, the company's own staff on a normal passenger trip so that they can be in the right place to begin their duties) The flight experienced some turbulence but was uneventful until shortly after 1:00 a.m. on August 6th, as the jet was preparing to land. There was heavy rain at Guam so visibility was significantly reduced and the crew attempted an instrument landing. The glideslope Instrument Landing System (ILS) for runway 6L was out of service. Captain Park believed it was in service, however, at 1:35 am managed to pick up a signal that was later identified to be from an irrelevant electronic device on the ground. The crew noticed that the aircraft was descending very steeply, and noted several times that the airport "is not in sight." Despite protests from flight engineer Nam that the detected signal was not the glide-slope indicator, Park pressed on. The crew lowered the landing gear and continued to prepare the aircraft for landing. 12 seconds before impact, the Ground Proximity Warning system activated, warning the crew about their actual altitude. First officer Song declared a missed approach, and captain Park declared a go-around, but it was too late. At 1:42 am, the aircraft's main landing gear struck a fuel pipeline, and crashed into Nimitz Hill. The crash site was about 3 nautical miles (3.5 mi; 5.6 km) short of the runway, at an altitude of 660 feet (200 m).
Flight 801 was normally flown by an Airbus A300; but since Korean Air had to transport the Chamorro athletes to the South Pacific Mini Games in American Samoa, the airline designated a 12-year-old Boeing 747-300 delivered to Korean Air on December 12, 1984 to fly the route that night.

Aircraft Information
Airline: Korean Air
Code: KE/KAL
Aircraft: Boeing 747-3B5
Registration: HL7468
Serial Number: 22487
Engines: 4 x PW JT9D-7R4G2
First Flew: 3/12/1984
Age: 12Yrs 8Mts

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