Thursday, July 24, 2014

Taiwan: Update--Forty-eight Reported Killed Aboard Penghu-Destined ATR-72, Analysis Underway

According to Reuters, Taiwan authorities launched an investigation on Thursday (July 24) into the crash of a TransAsia Airways Flight GE222, a turboprop in which 48 people were killed with the weather expected to be a factor in the inquiry.

The 70-seat ATR 72, crashed on Wednesday evening (July 23) near the runway while trying to land on the small island of Penghu, west of Taiwan island, after a typhoon had passed earlier in the day.

The aircraft had 54 passengers and four crew members aboard. Two of the dead were French, the French Foreign Ministry said, and 10 people were injured and taken to hospital.

Taiwan's civil aviation authorities said the weather had been suitable for flying.

"There were nine flights on the same route between 1400 and 1900 hours on Wednesday. Only the TransAsia flight crashed," said Jean Shen, director of the Civil Aeronautics Administration. 

Both "black" boxes have been recovered.

COMMENT: The aircraft took off from the southern Taiwan city of Kaohsiung, heading for Makong airport in the Penghu islands, but it crashed just short of the runway on its second attempt to land during a thunder storm. The islands are also known as the Pescadores.. No one on the ground was injured.
Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou said in a statement all of the island's people were grieving.

China's president, Xi Jinping, who is on a Latin America tour, felt "deeply grieved" after learning of the casualties, the mainland's State Council Taiwan Affairs Office, said in a statement, according to media.

Typhoon Matmo hit Taiwan on Wednesday (July 23), bringing heavy rain and strong wind. It later passed the island and headed to China and was downgraded to a tropical storm.

Taiwan has had a poor aviation safety record over the last two decades, though it has improved recently after the government tightened safety measures. 

TransAsia had been involved in eight "incidents" since 2002, including Flight GE222, according to data on the website of the Aviation Safety Council. 

TransAsia and rivals, China Airlines and Eva Airways, have been facing pressure from higher energy prices and increasingly popular budget airlines. 

TransAsia Airways is a Taiwan-based airline with a fleet of about 23 Airbus and ATR aircraft, operating primarily along short-haul domestic routes as well as to mainland China, Japan, Thailand and Cambodia, among its Asian destinations. 

Shares of TransAsia Airways ended down 5.5% after opening 7% lower.