Tue, Jan 04, 2000 - Page 1 News List

Official report says CAL crash was caused by pilot

CRASH INVESTIGATION The final verdict on the Taoyuan crash which claimed 202 lives is that the pilot panicked and made fatal mistakes


Following a formal investigation that has continued for nearly two years, a final report by a special task force under the Civil Aviation Administration has concluded that pilot error -- as has long been expected -- was behind the crash of China Airlines flight 676 at CKS International Airport in Taoyuan in February, 1998, that killed all 196 people on board and six others on the ground.

The investigation into the crash has centered around orders from the control tower to the plane to abort its first landing attempt, and to "go around" for a second landing.

The investigation found that the pilot had released the plane's autopilot but was not aware of it, and the procedures taken for the second landing attempt were erroneous.

The Civil Aeronautics Administration will submit the bilingual report, which runs up to several hundred pages, to the Ministry of Transportation and Communications. A formal announcement of its results will be made in about a month's time.

The reports says the plane's pilot failed to correct an error in the plane's altitude during the landing approach, despite warnings from the control tower that the aircraft was more than 1,000 meters above its normal altitude when it was only six nautical miles away from the airport.

The report also pointed out that before the plane hit the ground, it was locked in autopilot mode, but that when it started to dip, it was turned to manual control. The investigation group said these facts led them to conclude that as the Airbus A300 was preparing to land, the pilot mistakenly believed the aircraft was on autopilot.

When he received the order to "go around," he therefore did nothing to actively take control of the plane. For 11 seconds, the report says, the plane was under no one's control.

The report concludes by pointing the finger at China Airlines for what it calls "insufficient training" and "poor management of the resources in the pilot's cabin".

Flight 676 had been returning from the Indonesian resort of Bali, where, among other passengers, then-Central Bank governor Sheu Yuan-dong (許遠東), his wife and other bank officials had been attending an Asian bank governors' conference.

In the nearly two years since the crash, speculation has continued about the possible role of pilot error. As early as the day after the crash, airline industry analysts and other sources cast doubt on the possibility that it was caused by mechanical failure.

They cited the fact that there had been no obvious mechanical failure before impact, evident in the pattern of wreckage and the pilot's conversation with the flight control tower.

The plane plowed into a row of apartment buildings not too far from the runway, and then broke into several pieces. Experts have said that if the pilot had lost control, the aircraft would have crashed over a wider swath of land.

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