Popular wisdom enshrined in an old maxim on cockpit crises lists the most useless things in aviation as “altitude above you”, “runway behind you”, and “a few seconds ago”.

Inadvertently shutting the wrong throttle during a powerplant failure on take-off hands the unlucky crew all three at once.

That a trained pilot, with access to myriad information in an advanced turboprop, could misidentify a failed engine amounts to a blunder so extraordinary that it points either to gross incompetence or a fundamental problem of misdirection.

The closer the aircraft to the ground, the greater the perceived urgency for remedial action, and the pressure to avoid wasting the luxurious commodity of time – precisely the resource most necessary to execute a proper identification procedure.

While the pressure to address the situation quickly is understandable, the manner in which this translates into incorrect judgement is less clear.

The loss of TransAsia flight GE235 is more interesting for its psychological aspects than its mechanical flaws.

Pilots can do little about the altitude above them, or the runway behind them.

But understanding those psychological aspects might give them a fighting chance of ensuring the interval since a “few seconds ago” does not go to waste.

Source: Flight International