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GE235 crash report highlights cockpit confusion

An official report into the fatal crash of a TransAsia Airways ATR 72-600 aircraft on 4 February confirms that the pilot flying retarded the aircraft’s only good engine.

The Taiwan Aviation Safety Council report shows that, after flight GE235 took off from Taipei’s Songshan Airport, the pilot flying retarded the left hand engine (engine 1) after the right hand engine (engine 2) flamed out at 1,200ft.

This corroborates analysis of data from the doomed aircraft’s flight data recorder, released on 6 February, which showed a fuel shut-off to engine 1 about 1min after engine 2 flamed out.

Although the report is factual, and will be followed by an analysis report in April 2016, it does point to a confused situation in the cockpit.

Three seconds after the engine 2 flame-out occurred, the aircraft’s autopilot was disengaged while climbing through 1,300ft.

Two seconds later, at 10:52:43, the pilot flying said, “I will pull back engine one throttle,” to which the pilot monitoring replied: "Wait a second cross-check.” Nonetheless, the flight-data recorder indicates a sharp reduction in the engine 1 power lever angle.

Over 20s later, the pilot flying appears to have again reduced power to engine 1. Meanwhile the aircraft reached its highest altitude, 1,630ft, and started to descend. This was followed by a stall warning and the activation of stick-shakers.

At 10:53:15, the crew were still unaware that that they had retarded the wrong engine, pushing the engine 2 throttle forward, while further retarding engine 1. Subsequently, the engine 1 condition lever was placed in the fuel shut-off position, and the propellers were feathered.

At 10:53:35 the pilot monitoring declared an emergency flame-out and 30s later said: “Both sides lost.”

The crew tried to restart the engine as the aircraft descended. Finally, at 309ft and a speed of 105 knots, the pilot flying said: “Wow, pulled back the wrong side throttle.”

Shortly thereafter the aircraft crashed into the Keelung River. Of the 58 occupants, 43 died and 15 were injured. Two people on the ground also sustained injuries.

The registration of the aircraft was B-22816. There were three flight crew: two captains and a first officer, none of whom are named in the report. The first captain had 250h on type, the second captain 794h, and the first officer, who was training for the ATR 72-600, had 8h.

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