TransAsia Airways says flight GE235 crashed less than four minutes after taking off from Taipei Songshan airport on the morning of 4 February.
At a press conference in Taipei, its chief executive Chen Xinde apologised for the incident and urged against speculating on what caused the ATR 72-600 turboprop to crash into the Keelung river. He adds that the airline will cooperate fully with the country’s Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) in investigations and that the flight recorders should provide more information.
Chen says the carrier will conduct checks on its fleet of ATR 72s, but will await instructions from the CAA on whether to ground the turboprops.
At the press conference, it was also revealed that the turboprop previously had a faulty left engine which was replaced in Macau. The ATR 72 was powered by Pratt & Whitney PW100-127M engines.
Chen says that 13 of the 58 crew and passengers onboard have been confirmed dead. Of the 58, 31 are from mainland China, and the remaining from Taiwan. All five crew members, including the three pilots, are Taiwanese.
CAA director general Lim Tyh-Ming says GE235’s 42-year-old pilot had accumulated close to 5,000 flight hours, of which 3,400 were on the ATR aircraft. His 45-year-old co-pilot meanwhile has close to 7,000 flight hours, of which 6,500 were on the ATR.
Search and rescue efforts are still ongoing at Keelung river where the aircraft’s fuselage lies belly up. A crane has also been deployed onsite to attempt to lift the fuselage as more passengers are still trapped inside.
GE235 was on the Taipei Songshan-Kinmen route when it crashed into the Keelung river shortly after take off at 10:53 local time, apparently after the aircraft's left wing clipped a viaduct.
The ATR 72, registered B-22816, is less than a year old and was delivered to TransAsia last April.