Taiwan official confirms pilot’s ‘mayday’ call authentic as air crash death toll rises

Taiwan official confirms pilot’s ‘mayday’ call authentic as air crash death toll rises
A still image taken from an amateur video shot by a motorist shows a TransAsia Airways plane cartwheeling over a motorway soon after the turboprop ATR 72-600 aircraft took off in New Taipei City February 4, 2015.

The search has continued today for 12 missing people from the TransAsia Airway flight that clipped a bridge soon after take-off and crashed into a river in Taipei yesterday, killing at least 31 people.

An aviation official also confirmed today the authenticity of a recording of one of the pilots of the stricken aircraft saying "mayday, mayday, engine flameout" moments before it banked sharply and crashed.

The aircraft - carrying 53 passengers, including four children, and five crew members - was seen to lurch between buildings, then clip the bridge with one of its wings before crashing upside down in the shallow river at about 10.55am yesterday, shortly after taking off from Taipei's Songshan International Airport.

Taiwanese rescue officials have refused to give up hope of finding those people who are still missing.

"We have not found survivors or bodies of the 12 missing people, but we will not give up; we'll continue to search," Yeh Chun-hsing, an official with Taipei's fire department, told reporters.

The official at Taiwan's Civil Aeronautical Administration, who declined to be named, confirmed that the widely broadcast audio clip of the distress call, made during exchanges between the control tower of Taipei's Songshan International Airport and the pilot of doomed TransAsia Flight GE235, was genuine.

However, the official but did not say how it might relate to the cause of the crash.

A transcript of excerpts of that exchange reads:

Control tower: "(inaudible) ... wind 100 degrees, 9.9 knots. Clear to take off"

Pilot: "Clear to take off, runway 10, TransAsia 235"

Pilot: "(inaudible) ... mayday, mayday, engine flameout"

Control tower: "TransAsia 235, please try again. Contact Taipei, approach on 119.7"

Control tower: "TransAsia 235. Control tower ... TransAsia 235. Control tower"

Video images of the plane's final moments in the air captured on car dashboard cameras appear to show the left engine's propeller at standstill as the aircraft turned sharply over Taipei, with its wings going vertical and clipping a highway bridge before plunging into the Keelung River yesterday.

Engine flameout refers to flames being extinguished in the combustion chamber of the engine, so that it shuts down and no longer drives the propeller.

Causes of a flameout could include a lack of fuel or being struck by a bird, volcanic ash or some other object. "Mayday" is an international emergency call.

Taiwan's aviation regulator has also ordered operators of all 22 turboprop ATR planes on the island to carry out "special checks" on their aircraft.

The checks would focus on the engines, fuel control system, propeller systems, and spark plugs and ignition connectors in the turboprop aircraft, it said in a statement.

However, it has not ordered the grounding of the aircraft, despite yesterday's accident being the second fatal crash involving a TransAsia plane in seven months.

Both of the aircraft's engines were recovered from the crash site this afternoon and taken to shore for examination by air accident investigators, Taiwan's Central News Agency reported.

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