Military police lead workers carrying a victim's body at the crash site of the Transasia ATR 72-600 turboprop plane in the Keelung river in New Taipei City on February 6, 2015. (Agence France-Presse)
10 TransAsia ATR pilots have been banned from flying temporarily after failing a flight skills test ordered after last week's plane crash that killed at least 42 people, the island's aviation regulator said today.
TransAsia Airways Flight GE235 crashed shortly after take-off from Songshan airport in Taipei on Wednesday last week with 53 passengers and five crew on board, in the carrier's second fatal accident in seven months.
Taiwan's aviation regulator ordered the airline's pilots to take an oral test on basic operating and emergency procedures for the French-made aircraft, after initial findings pointed to pilot error as being behind the crash.
Those who failed the test have been grounded for one month and ordered to undergo further qualification training, the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) said.
"Of the 49 pilots and co-pilots who took the tests aimed to measure their proficiency in the operation of aircraft were evaluated as 'less skillful'," said Lin Chih-ming, director of the CAA.
"They have to take further training programmes. From the risk management perspective, this is a must," he said.
Of TransAsia's 68 pilots trained to fly ATR planes, 19 have not yet taken the test, because they are either on training programmes abroad or sick leave, and have been ordered not to fly in the interim, the CAA said.
Alarmed by the recent crash, Taiwan's transport authorities have asked the CAA to step up safety checks on all domestic airlines.
"In an instruction to the CAA, the minister has given top priority to flight safety this year," Clark Lin, chief of CAA Flight Standard Division, told AFP, adding that the checks would focus on flight operation maintenance and airworthiness.
TransAsia Airways announced on Wednesday that it would pay nearly half a million dollars in compensation to relatives of each of the victims of the crash.
The offer of Tw$14.9 million ($470,000) for each family comes seven months after the airline made a similar payout to the families of 48 passengers killed in another crash last July.
Amateur dramatic dashcam images from last week showed the ill-fated plane hitting an elevated road as it banked steeply away from buildings before crashing into the Keeling River.
One person remains missing after two more bodies were retrieved from the freezing waters on Wednesday.
"We offered an amount of Tw$14.9 million ($470,000) as compensation for each person who died in the accident. We hope to reach a settlement with the families," a TransAsia spokeswoman told AFP.
She would not say if the proposal had been accepted by the families. Some compensation claims from the July crash remain outstanding as each family had "expected a different amount", the spokeswoman said.
Investigators are still trying to establish what caused last week's crash, but initial reports from the black boxes found the plane's right engine had "flamed out" about two minutes after take-off.
Warning signals blared in the cockpit and the left engine was then shut down manually by the crew for unknown reasons, Taiwan's Aviation Safety Council said Friday.
Analysts have said the pilots may have caused the crash by turning off the wrong engine.
On Friday, TransAsia Airways said that it had 71 pilots flying ATR planes. But authorities have since clarified that that number included three pilots who were killed in the most recent crash, the two members of the cockpit crew and a third who was training to fly that model of plane.
The airline has cancelled 147 flights in the past five days and said it would cancel a further 34 flights Thursday, owing to a shortage of pilots.
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