Three days after crash, eight still missing in river in Taipei

A report in The China Post quotes a Taiwan air safety official as saying TransAsia Airways had not even completed a third of its required safety improvements after a fatal crash last year before this week’s disastrous crash into the Keelung River in Taipei by a similar ATR turbo-prop.

Bad though that sounds, the Taiwan report also includes a litany of engine faults, including two on the aircraft that crashed on Wednesday with heavy loss of life, variously associated with the maker, Pratt and Whitney, or the airline’s operations.

The China Daily report quotes named safety officials, making this a highly credible insight into the crash, compared to the massive amount of supposition that the accident has generated in the general media.

Plane Talking acknowledges the vigilance of AirInsight one of the most authoritative subscription aviation news and analysis services in the US, in alerting us to the China Daily report.

In parallel, this forensic recounting of the confirmed technical evidence concerning the crash in the Aviation Herald supports very strongly the likelihood that after one engine failed after takeoff the pilots then shut down or reduced thrust in the other engine, meaning that neither engine was producing useful power when the turbo-prop threaded its way around and past buildings, clipped a taxi on an elevated roadway, and then slammed into the river.

These are reports that will be read with dread by ATR operators and airline safety managers more generally in terms of how swiftly matters can go wrong in a power crisis soon after takeoff.  The safety lessons arising from this accident will be of much greater importance to airlines, their regulators, and their customers, than it being ‘just a small but unfortunate turbo-prop crash in another country’, which is one of the attitudes apparent in the online discussions in other places.

There appears to be a mistranslation or misunderstanding in part of the China Post report, which infers that the regional flight took off on only one engine. That would be the wrong conclusion to draw. This appears to be a case where there was a problem with one of the engines before take off, including during the taxi run to takeoff position, but that it was decided that the problem had gone away, and the flight then proceeded without regard to the actual cause of the ‘temporary’ problem with the engine.

Which poses a very important issue at large for airlines everywhere. Is it possible that airline operations can become so fixed on adhering to schedule that the safety culture becomes degraded to the point where ‘pressing on regardless’ can end in slaughter.

All airline managements need to consider that issue very, very carefully.

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