Taiwan’s aviation authority has ordered all ATR aircraft operated in the country to undergo technical checks in the wake of a tragic crash in the capital Taipei.
Although it has not ordered grounding of the fleet, Taiwan’s Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) said in a statement that engines, fuel control and propeller systems as well as spark plugs and ignition connectors of all of the 22 ATR aircraft operated in the country should be examined.
While the cause of the accident of TransAsia flight GE235 with 58 passengers aboard has not yet been determined, recordings of the plane’s pilot’s emergency calls have indicated a possible engine problem.
In the recordings, released by liveatc.net, the pilot of the only one year old ATR 72-600 can be heard calling ‘Mayday Mayday engine flameout’, referring to an engine failure caused by fuel supply blockage or faulty combustion.
Experts said, however, that a twin-engine aircraft, such as the ATR 72-600 turbo-prop, should be able to stay in the air with only one engine working.
The plane was powered by two Pratt & Whitney PW127M engines, which had been installed in April last year in Macau after a technical problem with the original motors was discovered during the delivery flight.
The plane underwent a complex maintenance procedure just two weeks ago and neither of its previous flights on the day of the crash indicated any problems.
The accident, captured in a horrific detail by the dashboard camera of a passing car, took place on Wednesday morning killing more than 30 people including the two pilots.
The tragedy is the second crash in less than a year involving a TransAsia operated ATR 72 plane. On 23 July 2014, an ATR 72-500 with 58 people aboard crashed near Taiwan's Magong Airport while trying to land in bad weather. 47 people died.
A product of a collaboration between Airbus and Alenia Aermacchi, a subsidiary of Italy’s Finmeccanica, ATR 72 is a short-haul regional turbo-prop capable of carrying up to 72 people.
ATR, which has its headquarters in France, said in a statement that it would cooperate with the French aviation safety investigation authority (BEA), which would represent the manufacturer. Canada, where the Pratt & Whitney engines are built, will also take part in the investigation led by Taiwan's Aviation Safety Council.
Taiwanese media reported that it appeared the plane's pilot managed to avoid more widespread damage and probably loss of further lives by steering aircraft between apartment blocks and commercial buildings before crashing into the river Keelung.