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TransAsia Pilot Shut Off Wrong Engine Moments Before Crash

Taiwan aviation officials on Tuesday released a detailed report of how the pilot mistakenly shut off the plane's only working engine after the other lost power. "Wow, pulled back the wrong side throttle," the captain said shortly before crashing.

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The pilot of the TransAsia plane that narrowly dodged high-rise buildings before clipping a bridge and crashing into a river, killing 43 people, acknowledged mistakenly shutting off the only working engine moments beforehand, according to a new report issued by Taiwanese aviation officials Thursday.

The report from Taiwan's Aviation Safety Council confirms preliminary findings released earlier that the pilot of TransAsia Airways Flight 235 cut off fuel from the wrong engine after the other stalled out shortly after takeoff from Taipei Songshan Airport.

The crash, which was caught on video, killed the entire cockpit crew and injured two people on the ground. Fifteen others survived the crash.

View this video on YouTube

A transcript of audio recordings between the pilot, 42-year-old Liao Chien-tsung, and his co-pilot chronicled the moments leading up to the crash as they realized that one of two engines on the ATR 72-600 turboprop aircraft had failed less than one minute after takeoff.

The plane, which was about one year old, was designed to fly on one engine, but that fail-safe evaporated when, 46 seconds after engine No. 2 shut off at an altitude of about 1,200 feet, Liao mistakenly throttled back engine No. 1, causing the plane to completely stall.

After realizing his mistake, Liao was unable to restart the working engine until just before the crash. But by then, it was too late.

The report does not assign blame or make any judgments about the crash. But included in the report were findings by investigators that Liao, a former Taiwan Air Force pilot, had demonstrated deficiencies when dealing with simulated engine "flame-outs" during takeoff in April 2014:

After more training and simulated flight checks, Liao qualified as a captain. But similar issues were noted during other training exercises in July 2014.

TransAsia Airways issued a statement saying that it had worked to improve training and safety procedures while assisting investigators. Among the improvements, the airline noted that it had started a new training center, purchased more simulation planes, and formed an aviation safety committee.

A final report on the crash is expected to be released in April 2016.

Since the crash, the airline has so far settled with the families of seven passengers.

Jason Wells is deputy news director for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.

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