Pilot Errors Led to Fatal Taiwan TransAsia Crash, Probe Finds

  • Crew didn’t carry out documented emergency procedures: Report
  • Twin-engine ATR plane crashed in February 2015, killing 43

Rescue teams work to free people from a TransAsia Airways airplane that crashed in Taipei in February 2015.

Photographer: VCG via Getty Images

The TransAsia Airways Corp. plane that crashed in Taipei last year went down after its pilots failed to take the right actions following a series of contributing factors including an engine fault, investigators found.

The many factors culminated in a stall-induced loss of control by the pilots, according to a final report on the crash issued Thursday by the Taiwan Aviation Safety Council. The fatal accident could have been prevented if the crew had prioritized actions to stabilize the aircraft’s flight path, correctly identify the malfunction, and take appropriate steps, the report said.

Flight GE235 plunged into a river near Taipei on Feb. 4, 2015, after the pilot lost contact within minutes after takeoff, killing 43 of the 58 people on board. The final report reinforces findings issued in July last year that an engine fault in the turbo-propeller plane triggered a series of pilot errors that eventually crashed the aircraft.

“The flight crew did not perform the documented abnormal and emergency procedures to identify the failure and implement the required corrective actions” following an uncommanded autofeather, or engine adjustment, the report said.

The twin-engine ATR 72-600 aircraft, carrying 53 passengers and five crew, took off in the morning from Songshan domestic airport in downtown Taipei on an hour-long flight to the island of Kinmen off mainland China.

For details of a preliminary report on the accident, click here.

The pilot made a distress call, saying “Mayday, mayday, engine flameout,” two minutes after being given the go-ahead to take off, according to a recording of air traffic control communications. He lost contact with ground within four minutes.

Footage taken from a dashboard-mounted camera in a car showed the plane’s wings tilted at a steep angle as it swerved over a bridge, with one tip clipping a taxi and the railing before plunging into the Keelung River.

The investigation team included members from planemaker ATR, engine-maker Pratt & Whitney, its parent United Technologies Corp., the French aviation safety agency, as well as the Canadian and U.S. transportation safety boards, according to the report.

Safety Proposals

External public-relations consultants handling communications for ATR and Pratt & Whitney didn’t immediately respond to e-mails seeking comments.

The report made some safety recommendations, including to TransAsia and the engine makers. These included having a clear company policy for TransAsia with instructions and training on a requirement to reject a takeoff in the event that the automatic take off power control system isn’t armed as required; conducting a thorough review of flight crew training programs, and implementing an effective and formal review to identify and manage pilots whose performance is marginal.

Investigators proposed United Technologies and Pratt & Whitney work with engine and aircraft manufacturers to assess risks associated with the related autofeather unit to minimize or prevent occurrences of uncommanded autofeather.

This deadly incident came less than a year after another TransAsia plane went down in July 2014, killing 48 people, with 10 surviving. That crash occurred after the pilots couldn’t find the runway seconds before their plane, also an ATR 72 twin-engine turbo-propeller aircraft, slammed down on Taiwan’s outlying Penghu islands, according to an accident report.