Pilots blamed for 2014 TransAsia Taiwan crash

TAIPEI • Two TransAsia Airways pilots caused a 2014 plane crash that left 48 people dead by flying too low as they attempted to land on an island during a typhoon, Taiwan's aviation authorities said yesterday.

Taiwan's aviation body said the pilots flew below the minimum altitude in poor visibility caused by Typhoon Matmo on July 23, 2014, in its final report into the airline's second fatal accident in a year.

The procedural mistake was widespread among TransAsia's pilots at the time, an aviation official said, endangering passenger and crew safety. The ill-fated Flight GE222 was carrying 54 passengers and a crew of four when it slammed into trees and houses near Magong city airport in the Taiwan Strait's scenic Penghu islands, leaving just 10 survivors. Two French nationals were among those killed in the island's worst air disaster in a decade.

"An airworthy aircraft under the control of the flight crew was flown unintentionally into terrain with limited awareness by the crew of the aircraft's proximity to terrain," the Aviation Safety Council (ASC) said in the investigation report.

Among other things, the pilots misjudged the aircraft's altitude and failed to follow the proper protocols, said the ASC. "Flight crew coordination, communication, and threat and error management were less than effective. That compromised the safety of the flight."

The report casts a spotlight once again on pilot training and decision-making at TransAsia, which also lost an ATR 72-600 in another fatal crash in February last year.

The ASC recommended that the airline should ensure that flight crew comply with standard operating procedures. Rules should be implemented to prevent pilots from violating procedures or engaging "in unsafe behaviour", it added.

It should hire staff to overcome a shortage of pilots, personnel in the flight training department, and those with expertise in safety management, said the ASC.

The ASC also recommended that Taiwan's Civil Aeronautics Administration, the regulator, step up its "surveillance" of TransAsia to ensure that the airline complies with procedures.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 30, 2016, with the headline 'Pilots blamed for 2014 TransAsia Taiwan crash'. Print Edition | Subscribe