“Wow, pulled back wrong throttle” – captain of crashed TransAsia plane

Taiwan’s Aviation Safety Council says in their latest report the captain of a TransAsia Airways mistakenly switched off the plane’s only working engine.

TAIPEI, TAIWAN (FILE – FEBRUARY 4, 2015) (REUTERS) – The captain of a TransAsia Airways ATR mistakenly switched off the plane’s only working engine seconds before it crashed in February, killing 43 people, Taiwan’s Aviation Safety Council (ASC) said in its latest report on Thursday (July 2).

The ASC’s report also showed that Captain Liao Jian-zong, who was at the controls, had failed simulator training in May 2014, in part because he had insufficient knowledge of how to deal with an engine flame-out on take-off.

About three minutes after takeoff, the captain was heard saying, “Wow, pulled back the wrong side throttle”, the latest report of the investigation released on Thursday showed.

“When the plane reached the altitude of 309 feet (94 metres), at a speed of 105 miles (169 kilometres) per hour, the pilot said, ‘We pulled back the wrong throttle.’ At this the time they found out that they pulled back the wrong the throttle. Then when the flight lowered its altitude, after 34 seconds, at 83 feet (25 metres) because the plane was approaching too close the ground, the emergency system on the ground started to warn (the pilot), ‘pull up, pull up.’ Then at 35 seconds, everyone has seen the picture from earlier, of the plane position changing 80 degress to the left, then hit the overpass over the Keelung River and crashed,” Wang Xing-Chong, executive of the Taiwan Aviation Council, told media during briefing held on Thursday.

A source with direct knowledge of the report told Reuters on Wednesday (July 2) the working engine had been shut off. Data readings showed the almost-new turboprop ATR 72-600 stalled and crashed shortly after it was switched off.

The council’s report, which neither assigns responsibility nor suggests recommendations for improvement, paints a more detailed picture of the evidence than a preliminary report released days after the crash.

A draft of the final report will be issued in November with the final report to be completed in April 2016, the council said. The cause of the crash and recommendations for the future will be included in the final report.

The plane, which can fly on one engine, was carrying 58 passengers and crew when it lurched nose-up between buildings, clipped an overpass and a taxi with one of its wings and then crashed upside down into a shallow river in Taipei.

Fifteen people survived, none of the pilots survived.