One of the engines on TransAsia Airways Flight 235 went idle soon after takeoff, and the pilots apparently shut off the other engine before the plane crashed, according to Taiwan’s top aviation official.
Aviation Safety Council Executive Director Thomas Wang, speaking at a news conference today, presented preliminary findings based on the flight-data recorders, which were recovered after the plane crashed in the Keelung River in Taipei. Wednesday’s crash killed at least 35 people, with eight still missing. Four bodies were recovered today, officials said.
Within a minute of takeoff, the plane's right engine triggered an alarm, Wang said. The data, however, showed it had not shut down, or "flamed out," as the pilot told the control tower, but rather went into idle mode, with no change in the oil pressure, he added.
After that, the pilot apparently shut down the left engine, the only engine producing power, a maneuver that Wang said officials are continuing to investigate.
Steve Ganyard, a former Marine Corps fighter pilot and ABC News consultant, said ATR 72 twin-engine turboprop aircraft are designed to be able to fly with one powered engine.
“It sure seems like it was a crew coordination problem, that they misidentified the engine that was having problems and made the situation worse,” Ganyard said.
Once the engine is shut down, it can take about 30 seconds to get the engine restarted, but given the plane’s low altitude, there wasn’t enough time, Ganyard said.
Moments before the plane crashed, the pilot communicated with air traffic controllers for the final time: “Mayday, mayday, engine flameout,” the pilot said. The plane veered sharply, with the wing striking a vehicle and barrier before careening into the river.
Abe Sitzer contributed to this report from Taiwan, as well as The Associated Press.