Taiwan’s Aviation Safety Council reported that this week’s crash of TransAsia Airways flight 235 may have been a result of the aircraft losing power in both engines.
However, only one of them failed.
“The first engine experienced a problem 37 seconds after take-off at 1,200 feet,” Aviation Safety Council director Thomas Wang told the press.
Black box data shows that the ATR-72-600 turboprop airliner’s right engine failed, which triggered a warning in the cockpit, Deutsche Welle reported.
But the aircraft’s functioning left engine was manually shut down. Wang told the media that it is “unclear” why this happened.
The pilots then attempted to restart the engine but couldn’t.
“In non-emergency circumstances, it takes at least 15-20 seconds to restart the turboprop engine and get it back to power, ” experienced commercial turboprop pilot and publisher of aviation blog Jetwhine.com Robert Mark told Business Insider. “The pilots may not have had enough time.”
“Engine failure on take off is one of the most common scenarios encountered by pilots during training,” Mark said. “There’s no reasonable explanation for shutting down a functioning engine.”
When an engine fails on a turboprop, such as the 9-month-old ATR involved in the crash, the propeller on that engine goes into an “auto feather” mode. This reduces drag and disturbance to aircraft — basically, enabling it to continue flying.
According to Mark, modern turboprop airliners are designed to fly on just one engine. Even in emergency situations, the technology on board the aircraft should allow the pilot to get it out of trouble, he added.
Authorities reported that of the 58 people on board the TransAsia flight, more than 30 have been killed and many more are still missing.
The latest developments in the investigation of the crash are eerily reminiscent of the tragedy of British Midland flight 92, which crashed on a highway just short of the runway at England’s East Midlands Airport in 1989.
During a flight from London Heathrow to Belfast, pilots experienced vibrations and smoke in the cabin of the brand new Boeing 737-400. Eventually, the left engine on the twin-engine airliner failed due to a fractured fan blade.
However, the pilot mistakenly shut down the aircraft’s functioning right engine because his experience with older 737s told him that the smoke in the cabin must have been sucked in through an air-conditioning intake on the plane’s right side.
But the newer 737-400 could take in air through openings on both sides of the plane. The pilots were simply not trained on the differences between the older models of the plane and the new 400 series.
It was a tragic error: 47 of the 126 passengers and crew were killed.
The biggest difference between the two crashes is that the engines on the ATR72 failed just seconds after take off, while the engines on the British Midlands Boeing failed during flight. The TransAsia pilots had much less time to work through the emergency.
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