Having led development teams with native-born Indian engineers on them, I can confirm that Indian cultural diversity notwithstanding, deference to superiors is a big deal with many people brought up there. That's neither good, nor bad. It's just different. Where problems arise is when people don't recognize that there are differences and fail take those differences into account.
As an American, I don't feel insulted when a subordinate questions my ideas, in fact I rely on them challenging me. What took me awhile to figure out was that my Indian employees wouldn't stand up and contradict me, especially in public. In a American that would be cowardly, but that's because we communicate in what amounts to be a different social language from Indians. I soon learned that you have to manage employees from deferential cultures differently; you've got to spend a lot of personal time together having quiet chats, maybe go out after work for a couple of beers. And you have to recalibrate your trouble sensors when dealing with deferential employees. If you give them something resembling an order, if they do anything short of hopping right to it with open enthusiasm, it's time to have a quiet, tactfully executed one-on-one.
This is not a worse way of doing things, it's just different, and it has its advantages and disadvantages. For me the toughest thing was I had to be careful about thinking out loud -- at least at first -- because my guys took every that came out of my mouth so seriously. At first, I found my Indian subordinates to be frustratingly passive. They found me (no doubt) to be overbearing, insensitive, rash and pig-headed. This was all just miscommunication, because we all were acting and interpreting each others' actions through the lenses of different cultural conventions. In the end, we did what intelligent people of different cultures do when working with each other: we developed a way of doing things that combined what we felt was the best of both cultures.
And that's an important lesson: people aren't culturally programmed automatons. We are capable of thinking and adapting. People in an egalitarian culture are perfectly capable of coming together and working coherently as a team, although the process may look ugly and chaotic to outsiders. People in cultures with deference to elders are perfectly capable of reporting unwelcome news to a superior.
So if a junior pilot didn't communicate an emergency situation to a senior pilot, *then somebody on that team screwed up*. They weren't doomed to crash by cultural programming. There may be nuances of their culture which contributed to the disaster, but that's bound to be true of human error in every culture.
I won't go so far as to say that *all* cultural differences are superficial. But I think many differences are more superficial than a casual outsider might suspect. That outsider might look at something like the reluctance of a subordinate to question a superior's instructions and assume that the subordinate *can't*. That's simply not true. On one level, the shared cultural understanding of the subordinate and the boss provides them with ways of communication that escape the outsider's understanding. But more importantly, people aren't mindless cultural automatons. If his boss is about to stall your plane on the approach to the runway, I don't think a Korean co-pilot is simply going to stand by silently. I suppose it is possible that he might be inclined to wait a few seconds longer than an American co-pilot, but if that endangers the plane then that is a mistake, period. A Korean airline is perfectly capable of training the co-pilots to report problems promptly, just as an American airline can train co-pilots to execute the commander's orders promptly without engaging in an impromptu debate.