Pilot error is to blame for TransAsia Airways Flight GE235 crashing into the Keelung River in Taipei last year, according to the Aviation Safety Council’s (ASC) final report released yesterday.
Investigators said a series of mistakes that were made due to ineffective communication between the two pilots and their failure to follow standard flight procedures were the main causes of the crash that killed 43 people.
The aircraft crashed on Feb. 4 last year, less than three minutes after taking off from Taipei International Airport (Songshan airport), which is about 5.4km west of the crash site.
Photo: EPA / TVBS Taiwan
The 10-month-old ATR 72-600 aircraft was en route from Taipei to Kinmen with 53 passengers and five crew members on board. There were 15 survivors.
The pilots should have aborted takeoff after noticing that a power-control system was not armed, investigators said in the report.
The investigators have previously said that the aircraft’s automatic takeoff power control system (ATPCS) had not been armed when the turboprop began its departure roll.
Photo: Huang Yao-cheng, Taipei Times
Four seconds after takeoff, the co-pilot pointed out an error in the ATPCS.
However, the captain replied: “OK, continue takeoff.”
The system provides automatic support — including uptrim and auto-feathering — in the event of an engine failure during takeoff.
In addition, the pilots inadvertently reduced power from the plane’s healthy left-hand engine, instead of the right-hand engine that was exhibiting problems, according to the report.
The mistakes occurred due to poor communication between the two pilots about the engine problems, investigators said, citing recordings of the captain on the cockpit voice recorder.
The errors led to both of the airplane’s engines losing power, the report said.
The voice recording indicated that eight seconds before the crash, one of the pilots exclaimed: “Oh, no, wrong throttle [was pulled back],” the report said.
Investigators also found that during flight training sessions, the captain had difficulty dealing with abnormal or emergency situations such as engine failure, but TransAsia did not address the problem, according to the report.
Officials said that the captain had failed a flight simulator test in May 2014, in part because he had insufficient knowledge of how to deal with an engine flameout on takeoff.
The ASC said TransAsia training supervisors had told ATR 72-600 pilots that they should abort takeoff if the ATPCS was not armed during the roll, a procedure that had been “emphasized” during pilot training.
However, the procedure for aborting is not clearly described in any manual or guidelines for the airline’s flight crew, the report said.
Investigators said cracked welds in the aircraft engine might also have been a factor that affected the plane’s functions.
The crash was the airline’s second in seven months — both involving French-Italian made ATR 72-type aircraft.
On July 23, 2014, TransAsia Flight GE222, an ATR 72-500 aircraft, crashed in a village near Magong Airport in Penghu.
The issue of TransAsia pilots not following standard operating procedures, which caused the ATR72-500 crash, has apparently not improved, ASC Executive Director Thomas Wang (王興中) said.
The ASC suggested that the airline review its pilot training programs, internal monitoring and supervisory measures to improve flight safety.
TransAsia Airways chairman Vincent Lin (林明昇) yesterday said that he respects the results of the investigation and that the airline would continue to improve flight safety by inviting the Flight Safety Foundation, the Airbus Flight Safety Department and the Bureau Veritas Group to provide guidance.
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