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Sky finds limits in Asia

- AP

THE deadly crash of a TransAsia plane into a river in Taiwan is again focusing attention on the safety challenges facing fast-growing Asian airlines.

Taiwan’s TransAsia has been adding new routes rapidly since going public in 2011.

TransAsia and others like it are rushing to keep up with a travel boom driven by the region’s growing middle class.

But as airlines carry more passengers across increasing­ly crowded skies, they are racing to train enough pilots.

“The demand is almost exceeding the supply,” said Safety Operating Systems CEO John M. Cox, who spent 25 years flying for US Airways.

TransAsia Airways Flight 235 crashed on Wednesday shortly after takeoff from Taipei, Taiwan, carrying 58 people.

Video from a car dashboard camera showed the plane, tilting madly and clipping a bridge before landing in a shallow river.

At least 25 people were killed, with 16 survivors pulled from the wreckage.

Crew shouted, “Mayday! Mayday! Engine flameout!” as the plane plunged, according to a recording played on local television.

“An engine flameout refers to the engine shutting down in flight,” said Daniel Tsang, from Hong Kong aviation consultanc­y Aspire Aviation.

It was the second fatal accident in just over six months for TransAsia — 48 people died in a crash in July last year — and its seventh serious accident in the past two decades, according to aerospace publicatio­n Flightglob­al. It comes barely a month after an AirAsia plane crashed into the Java Sea, killing 162 people.

Keith McGuire, a former investigat­or for the US National Transporta­tion Safety Board, said rapid growth could strain an airline’s pilot training and maintenanc­e, but carriers with good safety and training programs could handle it.

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