By: CHRISTOPHER BODEEN & RALPH JENNINGS
One of the engines on TransAsia Airways Flight 235 went idle 37 seconds after take-off, and the pilots may have shut off the remaining engine before attempting to restart them, but the plane crashed before that could happen, Taiwan’s top aviation safety official said Friday.
The details were presented at a news conference in Taipei by Aviation Safety Council Executive Director Thomas Wang as preliminary findings from the flight data recorder.
Wednesday’s crash into a river in Taipei minutes after take-off killed at least 35 people and left eight missing. Fifteen people were rescued with injuries after the accident, which was captured in a dramatic dashboard camera video that showed the ATR 72 propjet banking steeply and scraping a highway overpass before it hurtled into the Keelung River. Wang said the plane’s right engine triggered an alarm 37 seconds after take-off. However, he said the data showed it had not shut down, or “flamed out” as the pilot told the control tower, but rather moved into idle mode, with no change in the oil pressure.
Then, 46 seconds later, the left engine was shut down, apparently by one of the pilots, so that neither engine was producing any power. A restart was attempted, but the plane crashed just 72 seconds later.
Wang said it was too early to draw firm conclusions about the reasons why the engines ceased producing power.
“It’s only the third day so we can’t say too much,” Wang said. “We haven’t ruled anything out.”
Taiwanese Vice President Wu Den-yih, mindful of the island’s reputation as a tourist destination and its tense relations with China where most of the flight’s passengers were from, went to a Taipei funeral parlour for prayer sessions to pay respects.
At the parlour, where bodies are being stored, Wu expressed condolences and praised pilot Liao Chien-chung, who died in the crash. The pilots may have deliberately steered the plane away from buildings and into the river in the final moments.
“When it was clear his life would end, (the pilot) meticulously grasped the flight operating system and in the final moments he still wanted to control the plane to avoid harming residents in the housing communities,’’ Wu said. “To the plane’s crew, the victims … I here express condolences.”
With inputs from Associated Press
Pilot found clutching joystick of crashed plane
Taipei: Liao Chien-tsung, 41, the pilot of the crashed plane was still clutching the joystick when his body was found in the cockpit, after he battled to avoid populated areas, reports said Friday as the airline faced sanctions over its second fatal accident. Liao has been hailed as a hero for apparently making a last-ditch attempt to steer the turboprop plane, avoiding more deaths and damage. His body was found in the cockpit still holding the joystick with both hands, and with his legs badly fractured, the Taipei-based China Times newspaper said. PTI