TransAsia plane crash: “Wow, pulled back the wrong side throttle”

Taiwan’s aviation authority has released a report showing the captain of a TransAsia plane which crashed in Taipei City in February had mistakenly switched off the only working engine after the other lost power.

43 of the 58 people on board TransAsia Flight GE235, including the pilot and co-pilot died when the almost-new turboprop ATR 72-600 aircraft plunged into a river.

Shortly after takeoff from Songshan Airport, a cockpit warning signalled a flame-out in the right engine at an altitude of 1,200 feet.

It was followed by a stall warning that the plane is becoming too slow as the flamed-out engine was not generating enough power.

A pilot would normally shut down the flamed-out engine to avoid further problems and fly on the still-running engine as aircraft are designed to fly with one engine in emergency.

“Wow, pulled back the wrong side throttle”, Captain Liao Jian-zong, 41, was heard to say on cockpit voice recordings, apparently realizing that the working left engine had been mistakenly switched off (moved to idle).

The crew declared emergency and finally restarted the left engine, but too late to generate sufficient lift.

The plane flew perilously between buildings and clipped a bridge and a taxi before crashing into the shallow Keelung River.

“Impact, impact, brace for impact,” said the junior pilot seconds later – the last words heard on the data recordings.

The latest data were released as part of the investigation by the country’s Aviation Safety Council following an initial assessment released days after the crash.

The report said the pilot in command had failed a flight simulator test as recently as May 2014 partly because of his insufficient knowledge about the procedure for handling an engine flame-out on takeoff.

Liao, described by colleagues as “a little nervous” and “hasty”, later passed the re-test with further training.

The report will be followed by a final draft in November, with responsibility, causes and recommendations.