Investigators retrieve black boxes

Investigators retrieve black boxes
Rescue workers and firefighters search through the wreckage where TransAsia Airways flight GE222 crashed the night before near the airport at Magong on the Penghu island

AIPEI, Taiwan - Investigators from the Aviation Safety Council (ASC) yesterday recovered the two black boxes of crashed TransAsia Airways passenger plane GE222.

Having departed from Kaohsiung International Airport Wednesday evening, the passenger plane had crashed after a second attempt to land on Penghu Island. Carrying 54 passengers and 4 crew members, only 10 people were reported alive and they are being treated in hospitals; the other 48, pilot and copilot included, all lost their lives.

The ASC dispatched a team of investigators to the site of the crash yesterday, retrieving two black boxes from the charred and twisted plane for interpretation back in Taipei. Both black boxes are visibly scarred and damaged on the exterior, but most likely hold the complete conversation between pilot and copilot in the 30 minutes before the crash.

Deputy Transportation Minister Wu Men-feng) stated yesterday that the Ministry of Transportation and Communication (MOTC) would be assisting the families of passengers on GE222 in unearthing the real reason for the crash landing.

"The MOTC is calling upon TransAsia Airways to handle the remains of the plane and relative compensation issues carefully," said Wu.

Landing Left to Pilot to Decide: CAA

TransAsia Airways representative Phoebe Lu stated yesterday that the crash landing was due to the less-than-ideal weather, as Typhoon Matmo was sweeping across Taiwan yesterday.

According to Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) Deputy Director-General Lee Wan-li, whether or not a plane should land is a decision left entirely to the pilot.

The pilot of the passenger plane had attempted to land under appropriate circumstances, said Lee. "The wind was blowing southwest at Magong Airport on Wednesday, and the planes taking off and landing go against the wind, so the plane is flying from north to south. The visibility was 1,600 feet at the time of GE222's landing, and the wind speed at 13 nautical miles per hour ... and medium-level rain with thunder, all this is landing appropriate," said Lee.

As long as airports are open, planes are granted permission to land. But as the clouds, rain and thunder may affect the landing just minutes before, the ultimate decision to land or not is left to the pilot, said Lee.

The contents of the black boxes will likely be announced today, revealing the actual reason behind the pilot's decision.

The plane, flight GE222, is an ATR-72, a twin-engine turboprop short-haul regional airliner, and was in service for 14 years at the time of the crash. It was flown by pilot Lee Yi-liang and copilot Jiang Guan-hsing, with over 23,000 and 2,300 flying hours under their belts, respectively. Lee, 60, worked well with Jiang, who was around 38, said the CAA.

The plane was badly charred and in flames after the crash, with villagers who had witnessed the crash reporting that sparks were seen in the air before the plane attempted to land.

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