Taiwanese authorities order checks on ATR planes in the country after TransAsia crash

Rescuers lift the wreckage of the TransAsia ATR 72-600 out of the Keelung river at New Taipei City on Feb 4, 2015. -- PHOTO: AFP
Rescuers lift the wreckage of the TransAsia ATR 72-600 out of the Keelung river at New Taipei City on Feb 4, 2015. -- PHOTO: AFP

HONG KONG/SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Taiwan's aviation regulator on Thursday ordered all operators of ATR planes in the country to conduct "special checks" on their aircraft, a day after a TransAsia Airways plane crashed and killed at least 31 people.

The checks will focus on the engines, fuel control system, propellor systems, and spark plugs and ignition connectors in the turboprop planes, the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) said in a statement.

A grounding of Taiwan's 22 ATR aircraft was not ordered despite the incident, the second fatal crash involving a TransAsia plane in seven months.

Twelve people were still missing after the crash of TransAsia Flight GE235, which was carrying 58 passengers and crew

The plane was on its third flight of the day and there were no records of any malfunction in the previous two flights, the CAA statement said.

An air traffic control recording on liveatc.net showed that the last communication from one of the aircraft's pilots was "Mayday Mayday engine flameout".

A flameout occurs when the fuel supply to the engine is interrupted or when there is faulty combustion, resulting in an engine failure. Twin-engined aircraft, however, are usually able to keep flying even when one engine has failed.

The plane was powered by two Pratt & Whitney PW127 engines. Pratt & Whitney is part of United Technologies.

Macau's Civil Aviation Authority said in a statement the plane's engines had been replaced at Macau Airport on April 19 last year, during its delivery flight, "due to engine-related technical issues".

TransAsia has 10 remaining ATR turboprop aircraft, a combination of 72-500s and 72-600s. Its aircraft that completed the checks resumed operations on Thursday, the CAA said.

Uni Air, a subsidiary of EVA Airways Corp, operates 12 ATR 72-600s. "We are conducting the checks, but we have not grounded the aircraft," an EVA Air spokesman said.

China Airlines, Taiwan's largest carrier, does not operate ATR planes.

ATR is a joint venture between Airbus and Alenia Aermacchi, a subsidiary of Italy's Finmeccanica.

France, where the aircraft was designed and built, and Canada, where the engines are manufactured, will both be involved in the investigation, which will be led by Taiwan's Aviation Safety Council.

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