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'Unusual sounds' on GE222 black boxes: ASC

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Two unusual sounds were recorded by the black boxes on TransAsia Airways Flight GE222 before the plane crashed on the offshore island of Penghu last week, investigators said yesterday as they made public the initial investigation results on the incident that killed 48 people.

In a press conference held yesterday in New Taipei City, Aviation Safety Council (ASC, 飛安會) Executive Director Thomas Wang (王興中) said the investigators have decoded the information recorded in the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder — or “black boxes” — of Flight GE222.

The cockpit voice recorder recorded two “unusual sounds” before the aircraft crashed in the village of Xixi in Penghu's Huxi Township around 7 p.m. on July 23, Wang said.

The first sound was recorded at 7:06:13 p.m., two seconds after the pilots requested a go-around, said Wang at a press event on the examination of the aircraft's black boxes.

About three seconds later at 7:06:16 p.m., pilots asked for another go-around before the second abnormal sound was recorded at 7:06:18 p.m., Wang said.

At that time, the plane was flying over a wooded area close to the Penghu Magong Airport, Wang said. The black boxes stopped recording at 7:06:19 p.m., he said.

Wang said it is likely that the first sound was made when the aircraft clipped some treetops in a wooded area while the second sound may have been made when the plane crashed into residential buildings near the airport.

However, the origin of the sounds has to be determined by investigators in the future, he noted.

He also said it would be premature to speculate on the reasons for the crash, adding that the ASC would continue to investigate the cause of the accident.

Wang disclosed that the pilots' dialogues as recorded by the black boxes did not mention anything about a possible mechanical malfunction of the plane before the crash, said Wang. However, they did mention that the “wind was really strong” as they requested to land, he said.

Final Crash Report Available in 18 Months

According to the ASC, TransAsia Flight GE222 departed the southern city of Kaohsiung at 5:43 p.m. July 23.

At 6:29 p.m., pilots of the GE222 requested that the plane land on runway 02 instead of runway 20 due to low visibility around the Penghu Magong Airport.

Runway 02 is equipped with an ILS, an internationally normalized system for navigation of aircraft on final approach for landing.

Thirteen minutes later, the pilots requested again to land on runway 02. Pilots of GE222 later changed their mind and requested to land at runway 20 as scheduled, a request ultimately granted by the control tower, the ASC said.

The pilots deactivated autopilot mode at 7:05 p.m. Two unusual sounds were recorded around 7:06 p.m. before the black boxes stopped recording at 7:06:19 p.m. it said.

According to Wang, the ASC will file a preliminary report on the crash to both the Executive Yuan and the International Civil Aviation Organization by the end of this month.

A factual data report will be available by the end of this year and the final report will be completed in 18 months, he said.

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