According to black box data from the TransAsia Airlines turbo-prop plane that crashed in Taiwan, power was cut to both engines, investigators say.
Taiwan’s Aviation Safety Council said the engines failed to produce enough thrust for two minutes after take-off.
Data suggest that the flight crew tried to stop and restart one of the engines, without success.
Flight GE235 carried 58 passengers and crew, at least 35 of whom died when the plane crashed into a river.
Fifteen people survived the crash.
According to investigators at a briefing in Taipei, the plane ran into trouble just 37 seconds after taking off from Taipei’s Songshan airport.
Thomas Wang, director of the Aviation Safety Council, said the pilot announced a “flame-out”, which can occur when the fuel supply to the engine is interrupted or when there is faulty combustion.
However, Thomas Wang said there was in fact no flame-out, and the right engine had actually shifted into idle mode without the oil pressure having changed.
“The plane flashed a flame-out signal for one of the two engines at 10:53:28 when the plane climbed to an altitude of 1,200ft, triggering a warning,” AFP quoted Thomas Wang as saying.
“Then the other [left] engine was shut down manually. The pilot tried to restart the engines but to no avail.
“That means that during the flight’s final moments, neither engine had any thrust. We heard <<Mayday>> at 10:54:35,” he added.
The plane, which had been bound for Taiwan’s Kinmen Island, crashed into the Keelung River just 72 seconds later.
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TransAsia Airways flight GE235 carrying mostly Chinese tourists has crashed into Taiwan’s Keelung River, killing at least 23 people.
Dramatic video footage emerged showing the TransAsia Airways plane clipping a bridge as it came down shortly after take-off from a Taipei airport.
The plane, carrying 58 people, has broken up and the fuselage is lying half-submerged in the Keelung River. Rescue efforts are ongoing.
At least 15 people have been pulled out alive, with 20 still missing.
Television footage showed some passengers wading clear of the sunken wreckage and a toddler being pulled out alive by rescuers.
The dramatic moment a toddler was rescued from the sunken wreckage of the jet.
Emergency teams have cut the plane open to gain access, attempting to reach the remaining passengers trapped in the front section of the fuselage.
“At the moment, things don’t look too optimistic,” Wu Jun-hong, a Taipei fire department official coordinating the rescue effort, told reporters.
Wu Jun-hong said the fire department had requested heavy cranes to pull the body of the plane out of the water.
TransAsia said in a statement that one passenger had already been discharged from hospital.
The ATR-72 turbo-prop plane had just taken off from Taipei Songshan Airport and was heading to the Kinmen islands, just off the coast of the south-eastern Chinese city of Xiamen.
It is the second TransAsia ATR-72 to crash in seven months, following an accident last July which killed 48 people and injured 15.
According to a recording played on local media, the final communication from the pilots to air traffic control was: “Mayday, mayday, engine flame out.”
The recording was not immediately verified by aviation officials.
Flight controllers lost contact with the plane at 10:55 local time.
Footage of the plane filmed from inside passing cars showed it banking sharply, hitting a taxi and clipping the bridge before crashing into the river.
“I saw a taxi, probably just meters ahead of me, being hit by one wing of the plane,” an eyewitness told local media.
“The plane was huge and really close to me. I’m still trembling.”
TV footage showed rescuers standing on the tail section of the broken wreckage trying to pull passengers out of the plane with ropes.
The majority of the plane, including the front section of the fuselage and the wings, appeared to be underwater.
The plane’s flight data recorders, also known as black boxes, have been recovered.
TransAsia said it had contacted relatives of all the 22 Taiwanese passengers and was attempting to reach relatives of the Chinese nationals on board.
The company’s chief Chen Xinde offered a “deep apology” in a televised news conference, but said his planes had been “under thorough scrutiny” since mid-2014.
“Both our planes and our flight safety system are following strict regulations, so we also want to know what caused the new plane model to crash, but I don’t want to speculate,” he said.
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