TransAsia Airways plane turns back to Taipei airport after take-off due to signal malfunction

TAIPEI (THE CHINA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - A Taiwan-based TransAsia Airways plane yesterday reported a malfunction and returned to Taipei's Songshan Airport shortly after take-off.

TransAsia flight GE507, scheduled to embark from Taipei's Songshan Airport to Makung Airport, has to turn back after its captain reported signal abnormalities involving the torque of the plane during its take-off at 12.46pm.

The plane returned to Songshan Airport at 1.04pm for further check-ups. Passengers were rescheduled for a later plane bound for Makung Airport.

The Ministry of Transportation and Communications' Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) said that initial inspections concluded that the problem was a signal malfunction.

According to protocol, TransAsia has submitted a malfunctioning report to the aircraft's manufacturer. The CAA has grounded the plane, which is the same model as the plane that crashed near Makung Airport last year, pending further investigation.

In related news, another TransAsia plane, an international flight from Taoyuan International Airport bound for Osaka, Japan, was grounded for inspections after another airplane that was on the same runway reported seeing liquid around the fuselage of the TransAsia plane.

Following an inspection, the liquid was found to be water, and the aircraft was cleared for takeoff at 10am.

The two incidents took place weeks after a TransAsia flight crashed into a river in Taipei on Feb 4.

In the wake of that crash, the airline conducted an oral competency test for 49 of its pilots, 10 of whom failed it, the CAA announced on Feb 11.

"The major problem of those who failed the tests was their inability to deal with emergencies," said CAA director-general Lin Tyh-ming.

Transportation Minister Chen Jian-yu, who hosted the briefing, said the pilots who did not pass the competency test will have to be retrained, and they will not be allowed to fly until their training is complete.

The Taoyuan Pilots' Union, which had earlier slammed the CAA for holding a test that it said could "mislead the public", was not immediately available for comment.

A total of 68 ATR72 pilots were scheduled to receive the first part of the two-part proficiency test between Feb 7 and Feb 10, which examined the ability of TransAsia pilots operating ATR aircraft to follow standard operating procedures and react to emergencies, the CAA said.

Excluding those currently being trained in foreign countries or who were on vacation, 49 were evaluated, according to the agency.

The 19 pilots who have not been tested will also be suspended from flight duties until they are tested, the CAA said.

The first part of the evaluation, which covered basic knowledge, for example, ways to deal with engine failure on the twin-engine aircraft, was conducted orally, according to the CAA.

The pilots who passed muster will be sent overseas to be tested in flight simulators by third-party inspectors, and those who fail that test will also be suspended, CAA officials said.

After the 10 pilots failed the tests, TransAsia cancelled 44 domestic flights due to lack of pilots.

TransAsia President Fred Wu admitted on Feb 12 that the test results were "unacceptable", and said the carrier will retrain its pilots under CAA guidance.

The last victim of the TransAsia Airways flight 235 incident was located by the authorities on Feb. 12.

The final victim, a passenger from mainland China, was discovered 3km downstream from where the main impact occurred. The victim was found attached to his cabin seat when rescuers located his body.

The discovery also finalised the death toll of the incident at 42, with 15 injuries.

While the initial report of the CAA claimed that the flight data recorder had declared that both engines had stopped during the incident, the Aviation Safety Council stated that they will conduct an investigation and will present their own preliminary findings within the month, with an official conclusion planned for release four months later.