February 4, 2015
31 dead and 12 missing as TransAsia flight GE235 crashes into Taipei’s Keelung river
At least 31 passengers of a TransAsia twin-engine turboprop ATR 72-600 aircraft, flight number GE235, have died after it crashed into Taipei’s Keelung river shortly after take-off from the city’s Songshan airport on February 4th, according to latest reports from the island’s official news agency, CNA. Of the original 58 passengers on board, aside from the 31 who have died, which included both pilots, 15 are now in hospital and 12 are still unaccounted for. Two others were injured on the ground, including a taxi driver who received non-life-threatening head injuries as the plane clipped his vehicle at the time it also clipped the Nanhu Bridge.
Early reports indicate that the pilots had sufficient time to issue a distress call “Mayday Mayday engine flameout”, according to an air traffic control recording. An engine flameout is usually the result of a fuel supply interruption to an engine or when there is faulty combustion, basically resulting in an engine failure. Twin-engined aircraft are normally able to continue flying if already traveling at a sufficient velocity, however in the case of turboprop engines and according to aviation expert David Learmount, operation and safety editor at Flight Global, “If engine power is lost, the un-powered propeller can cause a lot of drag by windmilling, making the aircraft difficult to handle. Under those circumstances the crew would normally “feather” the propeller to cut the drag.” The question that investigators will want to ask is why the plane was not flying at a sufficient speed to cope with a one engine flameout. The plane’s black box has already been recovered from the crash site.
Dramatic footage of the last moments of the flight were captured by a car’s dashcam on the Nanhu bridge and subsequent news footage showed the rescue operation in full flow, particular joy coming from the rescue of a young child seemingly unharmed.
This particular plane, the ATR 72-600 was one of the first of eight such planes ordered back in 2013 and is the latest variant of the turboprop aircraft. With a maximum seating capacity for 72 passengers, the aircraft are popular for domestic flights between the capital, smaller cities and outlying islands. In this particular instance 31 of those on board were tourists from the city of Xiamen, which is situated near to Taiwan’s Kinmen Island, according to China’s Taiwan Affairs Office. Last year, an older TransAsia ATR 72 crashed, resulting in 48 deaths while attempting to land in the Taiwanese Penghu Islands.