A plane that crashed into a river in Taipei earlier this year did so as a result of human error, a report has found.
A preliminary investigation by Taiwan’s Aviation Safety Council revealed the captain of the TransAsia Airways flight switched off the plane’s working engine after the other lost power.
Flight GE235 clipped a bridge before crashing into the shallow Keelung River minutes after takeoff. Fifty-eight passengers from mainland China and Taiwan were on board the flight, of whom 43 perished in the crash.
Less than a minute after takeoff, once the plane had climbed to 1,200 feet, a warning sounded indicated that there had been an engine flameout or a power failure.
The report stated that, seconds before the plane’s wing hit the bridge, the captain pulled back on the wrong throttle and shut off the plane’s only working engine. It caused the aircraft to stall, though the pilot did not realise his mistake until two minutes later. He managed to restore some power to the engine but it was too late to avoid the crash.
According to the report, the unnamed pilot said: “Wow, pulled back the wrong side of the throttle” moments before the crash.
The pilot in question previously served in the Taiwan Air Force and had clocked 4,914 hours of flight time, passing all the necessary training. He joined TransAsia in 2010 and was promoted to captain in 2014. The captain previously served as first officer in the airline’s ATR 72-500 fleet before completing training to fly the ATR 72-600, the plane that he crashed in.
Training records revealed that during upgrade training in April last year, he failed a simulator check and performed poorly on the abnormal engine start section of the simulation.
Instructors also noted he was often hesitant when faced with a situation that required decision-making, and was “prone to be nervous and may make oral errors during the engine start procedure”.
A final report on the crash – complete with conclusions and findings – will be released in April 2016.
TransAsia issued a statement saying it had been “making a concerted effort” to enhance aviation safety since the incident, while attempting to assist the investigation.