The Civil Aviation Administration (CAA) said yesterday that the identities of the 35 passengers killed in the TransAsia Airways Flight GE222 crash outside Magong Airport in Penghu on Wednesday night have been confirmed, adding that a rescue team is scheduled to finish identifying the remaining 11 victims today.
Civil Aviation Administration Deputy Director-General Lee Wang-lee (李萬里) said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has reached the families of the two French exchange students who died in the plane crash, adding that the families declined to tell the public when they will be arriving in Taiwan because it is a private matter.
Lee said the airline had arranged for a military C-130 aircraft to transport the bodies of seven of the victims back to Greater Kaohsiung yesterday.
Today, TransAsia is to dispatch an Airbus 321 aircraft to carry two more bodies of deceased passengers to Taipei and two to Greater Kaohsiung, he said.
The administration continued to face questions yesterday about the circumstances under which the crashed airplane tried to land, particularly the changes in weather that the pilot may have encountered when he attempted to land the aircraft.
In response, Lee said the aviation weather forecast was provided to the pilot regularly for his reference, adding that pilots can also report the atmospheric conditions they experience to air traffic control personnel.
“All we knew at this point was that the pilot requested to go around at 7:06am, and he did not report any change in weather conditions,” he said.
Lee has been emphasizing that it was the pilot’s discretion to land the aircraft in any given situation, but his remarks have upset family members of the victims.
“The pilot was innocent,” said Chen Chun-rong (陳駿榮), whose elder brother, Chen Ruen-ching (陳潤清), was killed in the crash. “There has yet to be a result in the investigation. It is unacceptable that they [the CAA] are passing the buck to the captain.”
Chen Chun-rong also blamed the airline for insisting that the flight proceed in inclement weather and he said some of the victims’ family members also want to participate in the investigation.
Meanwhile, the Aviation Safety Council has completed downloading the data recorded on the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder.
The council’s investigators had transcribed conversations that were recorded 30 minutes before the crash on the cockpit voice recorder and from the flight data recorder, and secured information on the plane’s speed, altitude and other flight information from 25 hours before the accident.
Aviation Safety Council Executive Director Thomas Wang (王興中) said that the manufacturer of the ATR72 aircraft, the French Bureau of Enquiry and Analysis for Civil Aviation Safety, as well as engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney Canada, are all sending representatives to help with the investigation into the accident and they are scheduled to arrive in Penghu either today or tomorrow.
Wang added that investigators found pieces of aircraft wreckage scattered in the woods in front of the main crash site, adding that several tree tops appeared to have been cut or bent by an outer force. The council will compare the debris with damage to civilians’ houses as well as the information recorded on the “black boxes.”
The council will temporarily withhold the content of the recordings on the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder until the investigation is completed, Wang said.
Local media had reported the Magong Airport has installed an instrument landing system (ILS) on the northern end of the runway. However, the accident happened on the southern end of the runway.
In response, Lee said the Civil Aviation Administration could evaluate the possibility of installing an instrument landing system on the southern side of the runway, if the Aviation Safety Council makes such a suggestion in its investigation report.
“Ninety-nine percent of aircraft approaching Penghu are flying from south to north, because Penghu experiences a north wind most of the time, and therefore the ILS was installed in the north,” Lee said.
“The crashed aircraft was flying from north to south and used the visual flight rules. If an ILS is to be installed at the southern end of the runway, the government will have to spend NT$1 billion on a sea reclamation project and construction of such a facility,” he added.
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