Critics Of Asian Pilots Reaches Fever Pitch After Latest TransAsia Disaster
Cartwheeling Jetliner Provides Critics With More Ammunition To Restrict Asian Pilots Using U.S. Airports
Published February 4, 2015
By KRISTINA NGU, MATT HUSSFORD, ALEXIS SHAWNEE, LEEZEL TANGLO and DEAN SCHABNERBERG
The controversy surrounding Bad Asian Driving (or “BAD”) will flare up again after a Taiwanese TransAsia turboprop plane carrying 58 passengers and crew careened into a bridge on Wednesday. The plane ended its flight in a small river in downtown Taipei. At least 31 people are believed to have died. Dozens more were injured.
The horrific scene was caught on a driver’s dashboard camera. It appears based upon the video and a mayday call by the co-pilot that the airplane lost an engine soon after takeoff. According to veteran commercial pilot and CNN aviation consultant Buck Newbold this should not have led, however, to the disaster that appears in the video. “Any of these planes can fly on one engine,” said Newbold. “I’ll sometimes cut my second engine just to save on fuel,” he added. Newbold says that more investigation is necessary but it appears that this latest event is “classic bad asian driving.”
Newbold and other experts say that planes land more effectively when they are upright and not on their side – even when landing in water.
U.S. and European aviation experts have begun clamoring for restrictions on Asian airline pilots. Congressman Tim Seward (R., AL), chairman of the Transportation Committee that oversees the Federal Aviation Administration, issued a statement indicating that the Committee will explore “Asian restrictions” at U.S. airports. Senator Orlin Hatcher (R., UT) told reporters that he would favor “laws that use common sense to limit the fallout of BAD.”
Others even have called for the banning of aviation licenses to those of Asian ancestry. Presidential hopeful and amateur pilot former Virginia governor Timothy Pawenty said that he does not believe that Asians should be flying commercial aircraft. “My dear mother is 95-years-old, has had no aviation training and uses a walker,” he said. “Now ask me whether I would prefer her or an Asian pilot flying me to Pokipsy.”
Poor Asian flying is not new. Historians trace it back to the early days of aviation. “We used to believe that Japanese kamikaze pilots intentionally flew their planes into our ships,” said aviation historian Randy Fusilage. “Now we know better,” he said. Indeed, Japanese records released in 2003 reflect that Japanese pilots crashed their planes due to “spatial recognition deficits” in their pilots.
BAD became a publicly known term following the crash of an Asiana Airlines’ Boeing 777 in San Francisco. This crash was determined to be due to pilot error. Soon after the Asiana crash, Malaysia Airlines lost two different aircraft after they went off course. BAD remains controversial but until the Asiana crash it was spoken of only in hushed tones in aviation circles.
TransAsia Airlines was launched in 1977 and primarily services “sex tourists” to Thailand. It has gained notoriety for being the only airline in the world to feature transgender flight attendants.