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Pilots Of Doomed Taipei Flight Faced Problems With Both Engines

Rescuers pray near the bodies of victims from the TransAsia plane crash Friday. The turboprop crashed shortly after take-off from Songshan Airport in Taipei, hitting an elevated roadway as it banked steeply away from buildings and into the Keelung River.

Within seconds of takeoff, the TransAsia Airways plane that went down in a dramatic and deadly crash in Taipei Wednesday was already in trouble. Investigators say the turboprop plane's right engine lost thrust 37 seconds into the flight, and that the left one failed to restart not long afterwards.

The full details of what went wrong are not yet known; investigators say they're presenting some of the early findings from the "black box" flight data recorder that was recovered from the Keelung River. The pilot and co-pilot, who died in the cockpit, have been hailed as heroes for guiding their stricken aircraft away from populated areas.

"The first engine experienced a problem 37 seconds after takeoff at 1,200 feet," Aviation Safety Council managing director Thomas Wang said at a briefing Friday. He added that the plane is capable of flying on one engine.

More on Wang's briefing from Australia's ABC:

"He said the plane warned five times of stalling before it crashed in the center of Taipei.

"The right engine first entered a state called 'auto-feather,' in which it reduced thrust to the propeller.

"The flight crew then reduced acceleration on the left engine and attempted to restart it, but it did not gain enough thrust."

The plane went down with 58 people aboard; 15 survived. So far, officials say, the death toll from the crash stands at 35, with search and recovery efforts still under way. More than 20 of those who died "were from two Chinese tour groups that were on their way back home," the Taipei Times reports.

The plane that crashed was less than a year old, reports the China Post:

"The ATR72 model was one of the five that TransAsia had purchased only last April from France. The specific plane that crashed yesterday had a new engine fitted in Macau when it was being transferred to Taiwan from France due to a faulty engine, said TransAsia."

Because of the crash, Taiwan's aviation administration will bar TransAsia Airways from seeking new international air routes for one year, the Taipei Times reports, extending a ban the airline was already under due to a plane crash last July. An official adds that the airline could face severe punishment if it is found to have violated safety regulations.

The TransAsia flight that crashed in July, killing 48 people, was also an ATR 72 plane; it had been in service since 2000.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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