Asiana suspends Hiroshima flights for safety check

SEOUL (AFP) - Asiana Airlines said Friday it was suspending flights to Hiroshima pending a safety review, after one of its passenger jets hit a communications antenna as it came in to land at the Japanese airport.

The South Korean carrier said the suspension would last until the end of April while it checks "safety measures related to the Hiroshima route, airport facilities, planes and training." Flight OZ162 from Incheon, near Seoul, was carrying 73 passengers and eight crew when it smashed into the localiser - a large gate-like structure, six metres (20 feet) high, that sits around 300 metres (yards) from the start of the runway.

Nobody was killed, but 27 people were injured.

Asiana's vice-president Akiyoshi Yamamura on Thursday apologised at a press conference at Hiroshima airport as he gave details of the accident.

"We have received a report that the plane approached the runway at an extremely low altitude, which led to the accident," Yamamura said.

"As for the angle (of approach), it was not normal," he added.

Asiana, which operates a flight to and from Hiroshima once a day, said it would do its best to minimise any inconvenience caused by the suspension, refunding booked passengers and adjusting routes.

Transport officials from Japan and South Korea were investigating the accident, amid suggestions that a sudden down draft may have played a part in the crash.

The accident had echoes of an Asiana flight that crashed in San Francisco in July 2013, killing three people and leaving 182 injured.

US investigators concluded that a mismanaged landing approach in a highly automated cockpit was the probable cause of the accident, in which a Boeing 777 clipped a sea wall with its landing gear and then crashed and burst into flames.

South Korea ordered a 45-day suspension of Asiana's service to San Francisco as a penalty.