A year-long investigation by the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board has concluded that Asiana pilots had several chances to avert disaster as Flight 214 began its approach at San Francisco International Airport in July 2013.
Christopher Hart, the agency's acting director, told reporters Wednesday that the pilots "over-relied on systems they did not understand and flew the aircraft too low and slow, colliding with a sea wall at the end of the runway."
Asiana said in a statement, "We feel responsible for what happened in San Francisco and once again apologize for causing grave concern."
The Korean carrier acknowledged the NTSB's finding that the pilot's lack of understanding of the Boeing 777's complicated control systems played a role in the accident.
Due to the results of the NTSB's probe pointing to pilot error, Asiana is expected to face a barrage of lawsuits. The crash killed three passengers and injured 180. So far 71 of the 291 passengers have filed lawsuits against Asiana. They include 34 Americans, 20 Chinese and 14 Koreans.
The findings are expected to prompt more passengers to take legal action as many of the Chinese passengers waited until they were out.
It is too early to gauge the accurate amount of compensation. An Asiana spokesman said it will start full-fledged negotiations over a settlement soon. Following the 1997 Korean Air crash in Guam, families of each victim agreed to W250 million compensation (US$1=W1,021). Considering inflation, individual compensation could amount to between W400 million to W500 million.
The 180 injured passengers can seek compensation for hospital fees and follow-up treatments, though most of the injured passengers suffered bruises and other light injuries, while only 49 sustained heavy injuries.
Asiana had signed up with nine insurers in Korea for coverage up to US$2.4 billion. It expects the insurance coverage to be enough.
Asiana will also be subject to punitive measures by the Ministry of Land, Transport, and Maritime Affairs. The ministry plans to take its own measures after reviewing the NTSB's findings.
According to Korean law, the government can suspend affected flights for up to 90 days.
Meanwhile, since the NTSB cited Boeing's autothrottle, which automatically controls the speed of the plane, and overly complicated auto-flight system as contributing factors, the U.S. aircraft manufacturer may also face lawsuits.
Boeing has disputed the NTSB statement, adding the auto-flight system of the aircraft was functioning normally at the time of the accident but the accident occurred "due to the flight crew's failure to monitor and control airspeed, thrust level and glide path."