TransAsia’s fatal plane crash is only the latest to strike Taiwan

Emergeny responders carry out a rescue operation after a TransAsia Airways plane crash landed in a river near Taipei.
Emergeny responders carry out a rescue operation after a TransAsia Airways plane crash landed in a river near Taipei.
Image: Reuters/Pichi Chuang
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At least 12 people have died after a plane taking off from Taipei crashed into the Keelung river, near the Taiwanese capital. The flight, operated by the Taiwanese airline TransAsia and destined for Kinmen island, is one of several recent fatal aviation accidents on the small island. The plane appears to have been airborne for only three minutes before pilots reported an engine flame out.

Harrowing footage—taken from a car’s dashboard camera—shows the plane hitting a bridge and clipping a taxi before crashing into the river.

A representative from Taiwan’s Civil Aviation Authority told reporters (link in Chinese) that weather conditions were good; the pilot had 14,000 hours of flying hours and the co-pilot had 4,000 hours.

All 31 of the passengers on board were from mainland China. Sixteen people have been rescued thus far and 30 are still missing.

Including today’s crash, the carrier has had four fatal plane crashes since the mid-1990s. In July, a TransAsia flight attempting to land in the Penghu Islands also crashed in icy weather, killing 48 people. In 2002, a cargo flight from Taipei to Macau also crashed near the islands, killing two crew. In 1995, a TransAsia flight crashed into a mountain in Taoyuan, leaving four crew members dead.

TransAsia is Taiwan’s third-largest carrier, established in 1951. Taiwan’s  largest carrier, China Airlines, has also had a patchy safety record after a series of fatal crashes in the 1990s and early 2000s. In 2002, a China Airlines plane broke into pieces shortly after take off, killing all 225 passengers. In 1998, a China Airlines flight from Bali crashed on landing in Taipei, killing 203, including all the passengers and seven bystanders on the ground.

Since then, the small island has worked hard to rehabilitate its image. Between 2004 and 2013, there were 61 “aviation occurrences,” in which passengers were hurt or a plane was damaged, and 19 fatalities. Nevertheless, Taiwan is rated in category 1, the safest rank, in the US Federal Aviation Administrations International Aviation Safety Assessment program.