Taiwan air crash report highlights safety risks at TransAsia Airways

TAIPEI/SINGAPORE: TransAsia Airways should review its safety protocols, pilot training programme and hiring practices to reduce "imminent risks", Taiwan's aviation safety agency said on Friday.

These were among the 10 recommendations made by the Aviation Safety Council (ASC), which published the final report into its investigation of the June 2014 crash of Flight GE222.

The incident took place while the pilots of the ATR 72-500 turboprop aircraft were attempting to land during a thunderstorm on Magong island after a flight from Kaohsiung.

Pilot error was the main factor behind the crash, which led to the deaths of 48 of the 58 passengers and crew. Among other things, they misjudged the aircraft’s altitude and failed to follow the proper protocols, said the ASC.

"Flight crew coordination, communication, and threat and error management were less than effective. That compromised the safety of the flight," it added.

The report casts a spotlight once again on pilot training and decision-making at TransAsia, which also lost an ATR 72-600 in another fatal crash on February 2015.

In the second incident, the aircraft crashed soon after taking off from Taipei after one engine failed and the captain mistakenly switched off the only working engine. That resulted in the deaths of 43 passengers and crew.

The final report into this incident has not been released.

The ASC recommended on Friday that the airline should ensure that flight crew comply with standard operating procedures. Rules should be implemented to prevent pilots from violating procedures or engaging "in unsafe behavior", it added.

It should also hire staff to overcome a shortage of pilots, personnel in the flight training department, and those with expertise in safety management, said the ASC.

In response to the ASC's findings, TransAsia said in a statement that it plans to work with a local flight training center to step up pilot training, among its plans to address flight safety.

The ASC also recommended that Taiwan's Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA), the regulator, step up its "surveillance" of TransAsia to ensure that the airline complies with procedures.

The CAA should also "implement a more robust process to identify safety-related shortcomings" among Taiwan's airlines to ensure that they meet and maintain the required standards, the ASC added.

In a statement, the CAA said that it will work to ensure flight safety with an "aggressive and open" attitude.

It has asked TransAsia to increase pilot training, reviewed the airline’s training programmes, and supervised the precautionary measures that it has taken, CAA added.