At least 31 people were confirmed dead and 12 were still missing after a plane crash involving a Taiwanese flight happened in Taiwan on Wednesday, February 4.
The TransAsia Airways Flight GE235 were carrying 58 people, half of them were from China, when the plane banked sharply on its side, clipped a bridge and crashed into the Keelung River shortly after taking off from Taipei at 11:35 a.m. local time.
The said flight was operating from Taipei’s downtown Sungshan Airport en route to the outlying Taiwanese-controlled Kinmen islands, according to the civil aviation officials. Contact was lost four minutes later.
It was later reported that 15 passengers were pulled alive from the wreckage by rescuers during daylight.
Watch how the terrifying accident happened as captured by a motorist with his dash-cam while traversing the motorway:
Type of plane
Flight 235 is a French-Italian-built ATR 72-600 prop aircraft. It is one of the variants of ATR 72, a twin engine short-haul regional airliner and considered one of the world’s most popular and reliable turboprops. It seats up to 74 passengers in a single-class configuration, and is operated by a two-pilot crew.
ATR 72-600 “is the latest iteration of one of the most popular turboprop planes in the world, particularly favored for regional short-hop flights in Asia,” Greg Waldron, Asia managing editor at Flightglobal magazine in Singapore, said.
Cause of accident
Waldron said that it is too early to tell the cause of the incident but possible factors include pilot error, weather or freak incidents such as bird strikes.
“It’s too early now to speculate on whether it was an issue with the aircraft or crew,” Waldron said.
On the other hand, TransAsia director Peter Chen said that weather conditions were suitable for flying and mentioned that the aircraft was less than one year old.
“Actually, this aircraft in the accident was the newest model. It hadn’t been used for even a year,” Chen said in a news conference.
Air crash investigator David Gleave said that they are likely to focus on why the aircraft failed to safely return for a landing despite being designed to fly on only one engine in emergencies.
“It should have been able to climb out above the height of any obstacles, even if one of the engines was not working,” he explained while adding that one theory they have is the pilot were unable to secure the plane’s malfunctioning left engine.
“The roll to the left that we can see in the dashcam video is so rapid that it does not look like a deliberate maneuver,” he said. “It is possible that the malfunctioning engine was creating drag that made the plane impossible to control at that speed.”
Gleave however said that the pilots “had a fair bit of experience.” The pilot flying the plane was reported to have accumulated 4,914 flight hours while his co-pilot has 6,922 hours of flying experience. The third pilot, who was also seated in the cockpit, had 16,000 flight hours.
Meanwhile, U.K.-based aviation safety consultant Chris Yates said that it is possible that the engines themselves did not malfunction but were starved of fuel.
This is not the first time that an ATR 72 aircraft was involved in a deadly plane crash.
Its most recent accident was on July 23, 2014 involving ATR 72-500. It crashed into hard ground while attempting an emergency landing on approach to Magong in Taiwan’s Penghu county in the Taiwan Strait, killing 48 of 51 passengers and crew on board and injuring 8.
Meanwhile, its deadliest crash occurred on October 31, 1994 when ATR 72–212, American Eagle Flight 4184, crashed due to icing in Roselawn, Indiana killing all 68 people on board. Its impact forces were so high that the victims and the wreckage disintegrated.
ATR 72 in the Philippines
ATR 72 aircraft also fly in the Philippines. It is owned by Cebu Pacific. They have eight ATR 72-500 planes since 2008.
Lance Gokongwei, Cebu Pacific president, once said that the airline’s fleet expansion with ATR 72 planes boost flights to key destinations in the domestic routes, allowing it to serve more cities with runways too short for its Airbus fleet.