The Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) yesterday denied that the tower personnel at Magong Airport in Penghu County had failed to disclose important weather information that could have prevented the crash of TransAsia Airways Flight GE222 on July 23, adding that the cause of the accident is being investigated by the Aviation Safety Council (ASC).
The CAA was responding to a Chinese-language China Times article said the tower personnel did not inform the pilot of the crashed aircraft about a sudden change in visibility after they had secured the information, which could be the main cause of the fatal accident, which killed 48 people.
The council, which is in charge of investigating the cause of the accident, had said in August that it was scheduled to reveal the results of the investigation in October next year. Based on its preliminary findings from the plane’s cockpit voice recorder (CVR) and flight data recorder (FDR), the pilot had deactivated the autopilot system at 7:05pm and prepared for landing using manual control instead. The altitude at the time was recorded at 71m, and the aircraft was found to continue deviating from the set aviation course to the left.
However, aviation regulations state that the descent must start from an altitude of at least 110.6m if the aircraft is landing at a non-precision instruction runway, or the pilots must go around and try to land again.
The council found from the recorded information that the pilot had requested to go around twice, when the aircraft dropped to 21m and to 15m above the ground. Eventually, the plane crashed after hitting trees and houses.
CAA Deputy Director-General Lee Wan-lee (李萬里) yesterday said that the tower is equipped with an automatic terminal information service (ATIS), providing every pilot with updated weather forecasts from the CAA’s weather centers every 30 minutes. However, he said that the updates are given every 10 minutes if there are special weather conditions.
The CAA said the tower’s records on July 23 showed that the tower personnel informed the pilots about the latest weather forecast at 6:42pm.
At 6:45pm, the pilots requested to land at Runway 02 at the Magong Airport using the VHR omnidirectional range system. After the pilot reached the appropriate altitude and completed the procedures for landing at 7pm, the tower at 7:03pm granted the aircraft permission to land, after ensuring the runway was clear.
Although the tower personnel provided another weather update at 7:10pm, the planed crashed before 7:06pm, the records showed.
“It was really inappropriate that the reporter of the story interpreted the data from the cockpit voice recorder made public by the ASC herself and came to her own conclusion,” Lee said.
Lee said that although the tower personnel should provide the latest weather reports for pilot’s reference, the pilots have the right to decide if they want to land at the moment based on the aircraft’s particulars, as well as the pilots’ training. Lee added that the tower personnel are not meteorologists, and all the information from the weather center must be turned into audio files so that they can be broadcast to different flights through the ATIS.
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