Taiwanese jet trainer crashes, killing pilot in second fatal accident this year

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Taiwanese fighter jets at a military base in Penghu island, Taiwan, in September 2020 (EPA-EFE)
Taiwanese fighter jets at a military base in Penghu island, Taiwan, in September 2020 (EPA-EFE)

A trainer jet of Taiwan’s air force crashed on Tuesday morning killing its pilot, the country’s defence ministry said.

The AT-3 jet crashed during a training session from the Gangshan airbase in the southern city of Kaohsiung.

The plane, piloted by 23-year-old Hsu Ta-Chun, was on a solo training mission when it disappeared from the radar at 8.08am, five minutes after taking off, reported Focus Taiwan.

When firefighters from the Kaohsiung City Fire Bureau arrived at the crash site they found the plane engulfed in flames and the pilot had already died.

This was the young pilot’s second solo flight, reported Taiwan News.

Preliminary investigations revealed that five AT-3 trainers were conducting exercises near Tainan City’s Xigang District.

When only four jets returned safely, the air force launched a search and rescue mission to look for the missing pilot.

However, the search was called off after the crash was discovered.

In a statement, air force chief of staff Huang Chih-wei said that the aircraft was in good condition without any maintenance problems in the past year.

He added that the defence ministry has suspended flight training of new pilots following the crash.

Taiwan’s president Tsai Ing-wen said she was “deeply saddened” by the crash and directed the defence ministry to thoroughly probe the incident.

Ms Tsai also asked the ministry to help the pilot’s family.

The AT-3 jet trainers, built domestically in Taiwan by Aerospace Industrial Development Corporation (AIDC) in the 1980s, have been involved in 15 accidents which have caused the deaths of 10 pilots.

The AIDC website says a total of 63 At-3 jets have been built by the company.

The crash comes two months after a Mirage 2000 fighter jet crashed into the sea off the island’s southeast coast, the second combat aircraft lost in three months. The pilot was rescued alive.

Last year, two F-5E fighters, which first entered service in Taiwan in the 1970s, crashed into the sea after they apparently collided in mid-air during a training mission.

(Additional reporting by agencies)