Report Shows What Brought Down This Plane

Pilot mistakenly shut off wrong engine: report
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 2, 2015 9:46 AM CDT

(Newser) – A pilot initially hailed as a hero for maneuvering to avoid buildings seconds before February's TransAsia plane crash in Taiwan accidentally turned off the aircraft's only working engine after the other lost power, Reuters reports. Captain Liao Jian-zong, 41, pulled back on the throttle for the healthy engine, then tried to restart both before realizing his mistake. "Wow, pulled back the wrong side throttle," he said in voice recordings eight seconds before the crash, according to a report from Taiwan's Aviation Safety Council, out today. The ATR 72-600 plane was capable of flying with one working engine, CNN reports. The last words from the cockpit came from a junior first officer: "Impact, impact, brace for impact." Though 15 people survived, 43 passengers and crew, including all three pilots, died when the plane clipped an overpass and crashed into a shallow river.

During 2014 training on the ATR 72-600, Liao had shown issues in dealing with an engine failure after takeoff, the report notes. An instructor suggested he "may need extra training." In April or May 2014, when Liao was seeking a promotion to captain—which came in August—assessors also found performance issues during an abnormal engine start. They also noted problems with his "cockpit management and flight planning" and said he often failed to complete procedures and checks. He passed a second simulator check at the end of June, but instructors weeks later said he was "prone to be nervous and may make oral errors during the engine start procedure" and displayed a "lack of confidence," according to the report. All but one of TransAsia's ATR pilots have since passed oral proficiency tests on engine failure procedure, Reuters reports. The final report, which will detail the cause of the crash, is due in April.

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