TransAsia Flight 235 Pilot’s Last Words: ‘Wow! Pulled Back The Wrong Throttle!’ — Crash Killed 43

The pilot of TransAsia Flight 235, who had previously been praised as a hero for desperately attempting to stop his ATR72-600 commuter plane from crashing into Taipei’s Keelung River on February 4, apparently caused the crash by shutting down the turbo-prop plane’s lone working engine after the other one failed on take-off, a new report on the deadly disaster released Thursday says.

In fact, according to the report by the Taiwan Aviation Safety Council, 42-year-old Captain Liao Chien-Tsung failed a simulator training test 10 months before the horrifying crash — partly because he was stumped when it came to how to deal with an engine blowout when the plane takes off.

The voice of Liao can be heard, investigators said, on cockpit voice recordings just seconds before the plane barrel-rolled over a busy freeway and into the river, killing 43 of the plane’s 58 passengers and crew — including Liao, whose body was found with his hand still wrapped around the plane’s control stick.

But on that recording just eight seconds before the plane crashes, Liao makes a startling declaration.

“Wow! Pulled back the wrong side throttle!” the pilot is heard stating.

The crash made even more worldwide headlines than is usual for an aviation disaster, because a motorist captured the terrifying crash on a dashboard camera video. Viewable above, the video shows the plane suddenly appearing just feet over the highway, rolling onto its side, and then disappearing from the frame as it plunges into the river.

After the plane’s Engine Number Two lost power within seconds after the domestic commuter plane, en route from Taipei to the Taiwanese island of Kinmen, left the ground. But instead of shutting down the failing engine to preempt any further problems it may cause while continuing to fly the plane on a single engine, Liao shut down the plane’s one remaining good engine, at which point the aircraft lost power completely.

“If engine two has flamed out, you would shut off engine two, that’s normal logic,” said Aviation Safety Council Executive Director Thomas Wang at a press conference Thursday.

Investigators interviewed Liao’s colleagues at TransAsia following the crash, finding that they described the pilot as “a little nervous,” and possessing “a tendency of rushing to perform the procedures without coordination with the (co-pilot).”

Flight 235 was the second TransAsia plane to crash in just over six months. A TransAsia flight the previous July also crashed, killing 48, when the plane attempted to land in heavy weather conditions shortly after a typhoon.

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