Just a little over six months since the last fatal TransAsia ATR-72 crash, Flight GE235 crashed shortly after takeoff. The turboprop aircraft, with approximately 58 souls on board, was able to climb to 1,350 feet, before contacting air traffic control announcing "MAYDAY ENGINE FLAMEOUT."
An archive recording of the communications between the pilots and controllers on the ground reveal and the pilots declare an emergency at 23:25 when they broadcast that one of their engines had quit. The control tower continues to try and reach the aircraft with no success.
A series of images caught on dashcam show the aircraft initially at level flight and then banking hard in what appears to be an attempt to make an emergency landing in the Keelung River in Taipei, away from buildings and to save innocent lives. The bank angle might have been exacerbated by the power losses on one side from the failed engine.
The airplane was powered by two Pratt & Whitney PW127M turboprop engines and under normal conditions is able to continue to fly even after one engine quits. The crash might indicate a greater problem and a complete loss of power to both engines. A single flameout even before rotating on the takeoff roll still allows for sufficient acceleration to make a safe climb.
The P&W 127M was certified in 2007 and can produce 2619 maximum continues shaft horsepower per engine. These updated engines have an additional five percent increase in takeoff power called for by a "boost function" as needed. TransAsia only operates four of the relatively new ATR 72-600 that has a host of complicated technological advanced from the 72-500 that are being phased out of service.
The ATR 72-600 flight deck also features five wide LCD screens, improving on the EFIS from previous versions, and a multi-purpose computer that aims at increasing flight safety and operational capabilities. These computers and large displays are intended to give the pilots pertinent information of flight status and engine operation in order to make timely decisions for the safety of the flight.
The crash occurred less than three minutes after takeoff and just over three miles from the runway according to the fight tracking data. This should have provided the flight crew with ample time to secure the dead engine and establish a climb to a safe altitude and hold while the emergency checklist is completed and an approach to landing is initiated.
The flight data recorders have been located and will hopefully clarify if any other anomaly contributed to the fatal crash that started with a catastrophic engine flameout. The recorders should reveal both the cockpit communications between the crew and the aircraft flight parameters.
According to Reuters, 23 have died and 20 are still missing while somehow 15 have miraculously survived. This was the fourth ATR 72 crash for TransAsia Airways. Previous accidents happened in 2002 and 1995. One of TransAsia Airline's ATR 72-500 planes crashed while trying to land at Penghu Island last July, killing 48 of the 58 passengers and crew on board.
Social media was buzzing with photos and video capturing the aircraft as it clipped an overpass and a taxi before plunging into the river. The crash was caught on multiple dashcams including this dramatic footage. A local news channel is broadcasting a live feed (in Mandarin) of the rescue efforts on YouTube.