Preston Clive
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Preston Clive in Preston Clive - THE IRRITATED AMERICAN, Wielding The Digital Hatchet,

Terrified Nerves In The Far East


Calmly awaiting a connection to an Asian airline flight (IMAGE:

Another plane in Asia goes down. This time it's TransAsia and the plane looks like it lost--or didn't gain enough-- airspeed after takeoff, stalled, began falling out of the sky like a stone, and clipped a bridge and fell into the Taipei river.

It looks like according to recent reports that the crash was not as lethal as the 100% fatal Asian crashes that have so hauntingly and eerily preceded it over the past 12 months. According to a BBC report filed about an hour ago (10:50am NYC time), at least 18 passengers have been pulled out alive; as of the time of the report's writing, there were still 15 unaccounted for. There are apparently still passengers still trapped within the fuselage, which obviously hit the water and was deformed by the impact.

This plane was a twin turbo-prop .  .  . which is aviationspeak for a plane with two propellers, not the turbofan jets that you're used to seeing on airline carriers. This model was an ATR 72 regional aircraft, for shorter haul, smaller passenger routes where speed over long transcontinental distances are not as much of an issue. The ATR-72 is an extremely popular turbo prop plane for these short haur routes .  .  .  however, this is the second loss of an ATR-72 via Trans-Asia airlines over the past seven months. The only tangible evidence we have for the crash is the ATC report of an engine flameout.

This is extremely eerie: we have two Malaysian crashes of a Boeing 777, with no survivors and a loss of over 400 souls. We have the crash of Air Algerie MD83, with a loss of all 116 onboard. Here with TransAsia we have another two--already mentioned--crashes: the crash last July killed 48 and injured 15.

So I think it is safe to say that there is some uh, shall we say, er JINXLIKE going on within the Asian zone of aviation.

If I were an Asian traveler I'd be looking to zip hither and yon for horse and buggy, human slingshot, tricycle, rowboat, donkey, motorless scooter, skateboard, pogo stick .  .  . anything but the stepping on-board of an Asian based airliner. 

Is there a curse? Some wicked form of voodoo wrought by some evil shaman hired by some competitor in the market than has curiously not experienced any crashes? 

If you have any history with reading this column you know that I have very strong feelings about this topic. The deaths of anybody, let alone the massive amount in Asia over the past year is truly not funny at all, this is a form of sarcasm almost to keep from weeping in agony.

My feeling is there's no curse--at least not one flowing from the supernatural plane. If there's a curse it's that of inexperienced pilots with minuscule amounts of hands on experience. Carriers require them to lean on autopilots for fuel efficiency to the degree that the average pilot actually manually hand-flies the plane for about three minutes every day.

Even with an engine flameout, all planes are designed to be able to fly on one engine: on a double prop plane, with one on each wing, the pilot adds power, steps on his rudder to offset the yaw created by the asymmetric thrust rendered on the airframe via the loss of one of the two engines. The rudder straightens the fuselage, an increase in power of the remaining prop keeps the neccessary lift on the wings thus keeping the plane aloft, and the pilot gets vectors, after declaring emergency, back to the airport.

Clearly, from the video footage of the flight, the plane stalled on the left wing, (probably the side of the flameout) and fell into the water.

I'm afraid that such results of this policy of inexperienced pilots continue to pile up. Let's hope that living souls continue to be pulled from the wreck of TransAsia.

Preston Clive