On July 23 a TransAsia Airways plane crashed near Magong Airport, on Taiwan‘s Penghu islands. The flight number GE222 was flying from Kaohsiung to Penghu, but it crashed in Xixi, a town near Magong Airport, at around 19:00 local time. 48 people were killed.
That day Taiwan had been hit by typhoon Matmo, a powerful tropical cyclone that had brought heavy rain, strong winds and landslides on the island. Many believed that the plane crash had been caused by the typhoon, although Taiwan’s authorities had defended the decision to allow the plane to fly despite the bad weather.
Today, Taiwan’s Aviation Safety Council published a report that seems to confirm the link between the typhoon and the accident. According to the investigation, a few seconds before the fatal crash the pilots couldn’t see the runway. When they took off from Kaohsiung Airport at 17:45, the weather conditions were already below the minimum requirement for landing at Magong Airport. The two pilots had flown from Magong to Kaohsiung earlier that day.
Nevertheless, the actual causes of the crash have not been determined and the final report will be published in October.
These are the facts we know. However, my personal opinion is that it was a huge mistake to allow planes to fly under such weather conditions. The evening prior to the arrival of typhoon Matmo I was taking a walk in Taipei. There was very heavy rain and strong wind. I remember asking myself if planes would fly the following morning, because the weather was so bad people could barely walk. My umbrella broke and I returned home completely drenched.
I don’t know why the authorities allowed that plane to fly. Was it economic considerations (business comes before everything else)? Were they too careless? Or is it really true that planes can fly safely despite a typhoon of such proportions? I am not an expert and I can’t tell. But I’d prefer if authorities and airlines tried to avoid all possible risks, and in this case, I believe it was irresponsible to let 58 passengers fly during one of the strongest typhoons of the year.