TransAsia flight to Kinmen crashes in Taipei river

By Daniele Pestilli on February 7, 2015
The TransAsia aircraft clips a bridge moments before falling into the Keelung river. (Credits: @Missxoxo168)

On Wednesday February 4th, TransAsia GE 235, a Taiwanese domestic flight departing from Taipei and bound for Kinmen Island, crashed just minutes after its departure from Songshan airport. According to The Guardian, the flight was carrying a total of 58 passengers and crew. After clipping a bridge with its left wing, the aircraft plummeted into the Keelung river, killing at least 40. Fifteen were rescued from the wreckage.

The BBC writes that data from the aircraft's black-box suggests that “the pilots shut down one engine after the other lost power.” The pilots believed the right engine had experienced a flame-out, putting the plane in a state in which the thrust to the propeller was reduced. They then proceeded to shut down the left engine in order to attempt a restart. At this point, neither engine was producing power and the airplane crashed a minute and twelve seconds after. The BBC explains that it is still unclear why the left engine was also turned off, especially given the fact that this vehicle, an ATR 72-600, is capable of flying with just one engine.

A final report on the cause of the crash is scheduled to be released in approximately 12 months.

Prompt Responses

Liao Chien-tsung, the 42-year-old TransAsia flight's pilot, was hailed as a hero for his prompt response in an emergency situation and for doing his best to steer the aircraft away from high-rise buildings, avoiding further casualties. The body of Mr. Liao and his co-pilot were found still clasping the aircraft's control wheel, with broken legs.

Rescue teams and emergency personnel in Taipei surrounded the aircraft with rafts, searching through the night for the 17 missing people. Military soldiers helped survivors who arrived on the river bank. A crane was also dispatched to the scene to lift the wreckage from the river.

The Civil Aeronautics Administration has grounded 22 of the Franco-Italian ATR planes for safety checks (from Saturday to Monday) and has ordered all TransAsia pilots flying its ATR fleet to undergo retraining.

In the meanwhile, TransAsia has cancelled 90 flights so that its pilots can attend further training. An article in the Wall Street Journal explains, this is the airline's second deadly crash in seven months. The previous occurred in July last year, when flight GE-222 crashed as it was attempting to land near the Magong Airport on Penghu Island, killing 49 people.

An article published February 6th by the South China Morning Post explains that Taiwanese media has expressed its concern over the location of Songshan Airport, which is only 3km (1.8mi) from the heart of Taipei, a bustling East Asian capital.

Despite recent airplane crashes that have occurred throughout Asia in recent months, BBC's transport correspondent Richard Westcott says this is in fact a “golden era” of aircraft safety, with only 1 fatal accident per 2.38 million flights in 2014, compared to every 1.91 million flights in 2013.