On Wednesday, search and rescue workers located the body of the Taiwan pilot who crashed and was found clutching the joystick. Liao Chien-Tsung of TransAsia Air valiantly tried to navigate an out-of-control plane along the Keelung River, his badly broken legs proof of his attempts. Airplane officials report that intentionally veering the plane along the river caused him to miss high rise apartment buildings and commercial sites, saving even more lives.
Thirty-one people died and 12 survived the crash, including two individuals on the ground. Fifteen people were pulled from the wreckage, a family of three included. Originally the plane carried 58 passengers and five crew members. There were 31 tourists from mainland China on board.
A dashcam video recorded the Chien-Tsung narrowly missing the apartment buildings, clipping a passing taxi cab, and then crashing top-down into the river. The video also showed the left propeller spinning slower than the right one. This indicates that there was engine trouble. The ATR-72, a dual-engine plane, has the ability to fly with only one propeller. Passengers in the taxi cab escaped any harm.
Investigators recovered the black box, providing necessary last-minute data to tell what happened. The last words they hear the pilot say are “(m)ayday, mayday. Engine flameout.” An engine flameout means that the combustion chamber shut down the engine and propeller, or that the gas supply was interrupted. This can come from birds or other debris being sucked in, or any other object that can block fuel passage.
The recovery of the black box recorder shows that despite what the pilot thought, there was no flameout. The director of the Aviation Safety Counsel states that power was cut to both engines and the right engine had switched into idle mode. The pilot shut down the left engine. He tried to restart it, but it would not budge. There was no engine thrust during the last few minutes of the flight. The Taiwan pilot in the crash was found clutching the joystick in the attempt to navigate an out-of control airplane. He fought until the last minute.
Taiwan’s Vice President Wu Den-yih lauded Chien-Tsung for thinking about the safety of others, tightly clutching the joystick in attempt to control the plane and navigate around people and buildings. The pilot had close to 5,000 hours of flight experience. This son of street vendors passed the flight exam and then joined the air force. He first flew for China Air, and then switched to TransAsia Air.
Passengers noticed the Taiwan pilot having trouble with the plane early into the fight. Survivor Huan Jin-Sun heard noises from the engine upon take off. After the plane crashed, he helped unbuckle the seatbelts of four passengers before the plane sank into the river. A family traveling to Kinmen also heard strange noises and changed their seats. Ling Winmei, his wife Jiang Yuying and their two-year-old son, Lin Riyao switched from the left to the right side of the plane before take off. After the crash, Winmei pulled his son, who had been submerged for three minutes, from the river. He began to perform CPR until medics arrived. The boy’s heart had stopped but he is convalescing in the intensive care unit at the hospital.
The crash of Taiwan flight GE-325 is the latest in a line of tragedies to hit the Asian airways. In March of 2014, Malaysian Air Flight MH370 disappeared without a trace. Four months later, another Malaysian airplane, MH17 was shot down over the Russian-Ukraine border. The plane was recovered, but there were no survivors in both instances. There were also no survivors in the IndioAsia air flight that crashed in December due to bad weather. Although the Taiwan pilot in crash was found clutching the joystick, he was not able to prevent yet another disaster over Asia.
By Danielle Branch
Photo courtesy of Kentaro Iemoto – Flickr
Photo courtesy of Garnet – Flickr