Cause Of TransAsia Plane Crash Revealed

In February I posted about how a TransAsia ATR72 bound from Taipei Songshan Airport, Taiwan, to Kinmen, Taiwan, crashed shortly after takeoff. Unfortunately 43 people, including both of the pilots, died in the crash.

What made this crash especially unique is that we had footage of the exact moment the plane fell out of the sky:

There were a few things that were clear almost immediately based on the footage:

  • The plane crashed shortly after takeoff
  • The left engine didn’t seem to be running at full power/may have been shut off
  • It certainly looked like the plane was stalling, based on the angle at which it was coming in
  • The left wing dipped shortly before impact

While this goes back several months, Taiwan’s Aviation Safety Council has just released their factual data report regarding TransAsia flight 234. So what actually happened?

  • About a minute after takeoff, at about 1,300 feet, engine 2 had a failure
  • The pilot flying decided to greatly reduce engine 1 power levels, which he further reduced shortly thereafter (he incorrectly thought it was engine 1 which failed)
  • The pilots move engine 1 to the fuel shut-off position, which would be the correct position if the engine had failed, though they didn’t seem to realize that was the working engine
  • Shortly thereafter the pilot says “both sides lost,” acknowledging that both engines weren’t working
  • The crew tried to restart the engine, and just seconds before impact the pilot flying said “wow, pulled back the wrong side throttle,” acknowledging the mistake

Ouch! As of now we only have the factual report, which is to be followed by an analysis report in April 2016. That being said, this sure seems like it was pilot error, as the pilots got confused during what was a routine engine failure.

Comments

  1. Did tou say routine engine failure? Luckily i only had a couple engine failures but none seemed routine. 🙂 I mean 🙁

  2. “That being said, this sure seems like it was pilot error, as the pilots got confused during what was a routine engine failure.”

    There is nothing routine about an engine failure right after takeoff.

  3. There is no such thing as “routine engine failure”. That’s a newbie statement if there ever was one. What this appears to be, is technical/equipment failure, compounded with SUBSEQUENT pilot error.

  4. I seem to have the recollection though no details of passed crashes where the pilot made the error or turning off a functional engine thinking it was the failing or on fire engine. If that is correct why is it that the identify of the engine failure is not more clearly displayed in the cockpit. Surely there must be sensors to say when an engine is on fire or with other faults?

  5. Actually if you look into the transcript, it’s the PF confused. PNF had a clear understanding of which engine failed. So it makes it rather a CRM issue.

  6. “Ouch… You would think that a pilot could do this procedure without even having to think about it…”

    That’s probably what happened. Making a snap decision is usually what leads to these sorts of situations. The last thing you want a pilot doing in most emergencies is not thinking.

  7. Did the pilot really said WOW like something cool has happened? Or is it just a loose translation?

  8. The translation is poor. It is more like “oh my” or “$hit”, not ” wow” as English speakers use the word.

    As for the “cause” the cause was well known for months, just confirmed now. What a tragedy. And no an engine failure on take off is not “routine”. What IS new news is how this guy failed simulator training for a similar situation. Absolutely points to issues either with Taiwanese aviation authorities, TranaAsia, or both. To just nonchalantly blame the pilot is just part of the sensationalist telephone game.

  9. “this sure seems like it was pilot error, as the pilots got confused”
    In the study of root cause analysis, this is a red herring. See http://radar.oreilly.com/2014/11/the-infinite-hows.html. Any time the cause is “Human Error”, we doom ourselves to repeat the same disaster. “Pilot error” means that we cannot fix the problem because it is isolated in these pilots. Instead we must ask if there’s inadequate or unclear information in cockpit design (how did the pilot become confused? what caused him to think the wrong engine was out?) or insufficiency in pilot training (as seems to be the case here)

  10. Dodgy translations aside, it’s perfectly normal to use the word wow in such a context. It doesn’t only mean “cool” – it also expresses surprise etc.

  11. Accidents are horrible, but I am glad the stupid pilots paid for the mistake with their lives and some people survived.

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