10 pilots for Taiwan airline fail proficiency test after fatal crash last week

TAIPEI, Taiwan – Taiwan’s aviation authority on Wednesday ordered the suspension of 10 pilots from TransAsia Airways who failed a proficiency test given after one of the airline’s planes crashed, killing at least 42 people.

The 10 were among 49 pilots who underwent an oral exam on handling emergency situations administered after the Feb. 4 crash, and need to be retrained, the Civil Aviation Administration said in a statement. It said 19 other pilots who have not taken the test will also be suspended until they pass.

The turboprop ATR 72-600 crashed in the muddy Keelung River minutes after takeoff from Taipei’s downtown airport, breaking into pieces and strewing wreckage across the river bottom. Fifteen of the 58 people aboard were rescued and one person is still missing.

A preliminary investigation indicated the plane’s pilots shut off a running engine after its other engine went idle, a move that aviation experts said was an error.

TransAsia said in a statement that the pilots undergoing retraining have an average of nearly 7,000 hours of flying time each. Overseas flight safety experts have been contacted and the airline will begin additional training on simulators starting next month, it said.

Many of the passengers were from the Chinese mainland. The airline said it has distributed 1.2 million Taiwan dollars ($38,000) each for funeral expenses to the families of 12 Taiwanese victims and 13 from the mainland. Another 51 people have received support payments of 200,000 Taiwan dollars ($6,300) each.

The crash was the second fatal accident involving a TransAsia flight in less than a year, raising questions about the airline’s corporate culture. Over the weekend, Taiwanese Premier Mao Chi-kuo said that after all the victims are accounted for, Taiwan needs to look at improving management and training in civil aviation.

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