• Television footage of the plane crash in Taiwan.Twitter
  • Many on social media praised the brave TransAsia Pilot.Twitter

The 42-year old TransAsia pilot Liao Jianzong is being hailed a hero, after it emerged that he saved many lives by diverting the plane away from buildings and crashing into the river, despite knowing that he would die in the process.

The TransAsia ATR 72-600 crashed shortly after it took off from Songshan airport in northern Taipei on Wednesday, before hitting an elevated road as it banked sidelong into the Keelung River.

Pilot Liao Jianzong, 42, who had 5,000 hours of flying experience, issued a final message before the plane went down. In the final recordings, the pilot can be heard crying out: "Mayday! Mayday! Engine flame-out!'"

According to aviation experts, a "flame-out" meant that the plane's engine had failed and there was no power.

Pilot Jianzong steered the plane away from populated areas and high-rise buildings to avoid causing more damage with the aircraft, which had 53 passengers and five crew on board.

"Based on the flight path, the pilot deviated and tried to avoid obstacles. The pilot apparently made a conscious effort to avoid further and unnecessary casualties by ditching in the river. It was a very courageous move," Hong Kong-based aviation analyst Daniel Tsang told AFP.

Several Taiwanese social media users took to Twitter to post their messages praising the pilot and offering their condolences. 

"I believe the pilot managed to steer the plane away from high-rise buildings, he is a hero," Gin Oy, a writer and actress, said on her Facebook page.

Captain Jianzong is a former military pilot and father of a nine-year-old boy.

The rescuers on Thursday recovered the body of Jianzong,  co-pilot Liuzu Zong, who had 7000 hours' experience and flight engineer Hong Bing.

Taiwanese rescuers continued the search on Thursday looking for the 12 people still missing from the TransAsia plane crash.