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June 27, 2017

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DPP slams CAA for disregarding passenger safety

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Main opposition party legislators slammed the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) for disregarding the lives of the passengers aboard the crashed TransAsia Airways plane GE222, stating that there were a final six minutes in which many lives could have been saved.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Lee Kun-tse (李昆澤) held a press conference yesterday, calling for the CAA, the Ministry of Transportation and Communication (MOTC) and the Ministry of National Defense (MND) to deliver reports on the crash in Penghu. "The CAA has no respect for people's lives ... it should take responsibility regarding the plane crash, as should the MOTC," said Lee.

CAA Director-General Jean Shen (沈啟) responded that she would not be shying away from any responsibility, nor would she stay in her position should the situation demand otherwise.

The passengers boarded the plane because they trusted the government, putting their safety and their lives into the hands of the CAA and the airline company, said Lee. "But what happened was an accident that took 48 lives and injured 10; the CAA cannot shed its responsibility for the crash, while Transportation Minister Yeh Kuang-shih (葉匡時) should also shoulder his share," said Lee.

Many have pointed to the faulty Instrument Landing System (ILS) — an internationally normalized system for navigation of aircraft on final approach for landing — as the possible reason behind the crash. Lee stated that he has asked the MOTC to evaluate and upgrade all of the nation's airport runways and navigational aids, but the CAA had replied that the installation of ILS at Magong Airport would not be beneficial.

"After the GE222 crash, Shen actually announced that the ILS was only helpful to the efficiency of take offs and landings, instead of safety issues," said Lee, who added that he told Shen yesterday about how the CAA's own aviation textbooks had stated that only the ILS was able to ensure flight safety when it comes to bad weather and poor visibility.

The Key Six Minutes

After looking through weather reports from the day of the crash, Lee discovered that the visibility dropped from 2,400 meters to 800 meters just moments before the plane took off, with a thunderstorm raging as well, at 5:40 p.m. "Under the circumstances, no plane should be taking off, but the control tower issued its allowance for the plane to take off at 5:46 p.m. ... there were six minutes for them to prevent the tragedy from happening," Lee said.

A local magazine quoted on Wednesday a source as saying that the military could be partially responsible for the tragedy.

According to the magazine, GE222 pilot Lee Yi-liang (李義良) had previously asked the control tower of the Magong Airport if his plane could land on runway 02 instead of runway 20 because of the low visibility.

The control tower of the joint military/civilian-use airport later asked the Air Force if the GE222 could land on runway 02, which is mostly used by military aircraft instead of civilian ones, the magazine said.

Runway 02 is equipped with an ILS, an internationally normalized system for navigation of aircraft on final approach for landing. With the ILS, it may be safer to land, but the request was ultimately refused by the military, said the magazine.

Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) also called for the MOTC to ensure that TransAsia Airways take responsibility for the plane crash and to "handle the aftermath as appropriate."

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