225 Died a Year Ago, on Approach to Taiwan's Penghu Island
China Airlines Flight CI611
made headlines a year ago, May, when it inexplicably disappeared
from radar. 225 people were killed, including 19 crew; and recovery
efforts were hampered by rough waters, for many days.
Now, some new facts are pointing to a possible cause of the
disaster: investigators are pointing to an inadequate repair job
performed on the then nearly-new plane in 1980. (The craft was
built in 1979.)
What happened, had to do with a patch to the rear
cargo door area of the fuselage. That area had been damaged by a
tail strike on takeoff from Hong Kong's notoriously-difficult
Now, Taiwan Aviation Safety
Council investigator Kay Yong has told reporters, "We have
found… what we call multiple site fatigue cracks…
with the length of nearly 70 inches," in the area of the patch,
apparently caused by a poorly-engineered, or poorly-installed
Decades of inspections, also, apparently failed to catch the
now-nearly-six-foot cracks, surrounded by areas of corrosion,
casting another cloud over the much-maligned Chinese maintenance
workers at the state-owned airline.
The 747-200, one of a fleet of 30 that the airline owned at the
time, was piloted by experienced crewmen; it was not long after the
flight that pilot error was discounted as the cause of the
As we reported in May of 2002, the pilot
was, "…Mr. Ching-Fong Yi with 6128 flight hours. The
co-pilot was Mr. Yea Shyong Shieh with 6244 flight hours and flight
engineer Mr. Sen Kuo Chao [had] 18024 flight hours."
It was not until recently, however, that evidence of just why
the airplane fell out the sky was being made public.