Saturday, February 04, 2012

Human error involved in trainer plane crash: official

Taipei, Feb. 3 (CNA) Human error appears to be involved in the crash of Air Force AT-3 trainer planes, in which two pilots parachuted to safety and did not sustain any life-threatening injuries ROC Air Force Academy President Ke Wen-an said Friday. "But the cause of the crash has to await the investigation of experts," he said. Ke said the two trainer planes took off from Gangshan Air Force Base at 3:37 p.m. for formation training and collided 33 minutes later. 

The No. 0816 trainer returned to the air base safely, while the two pilots of the No. 0809 trainer were able to get out of the aircraft and parachute to the ground, where they were found by a passing motorist who helped them to the hospital. Fanliao Hospital said Lt. Col. Chang Kuo-chiang was bleeding from the neck and chest and had a wrist fracture, while 1st Lt. Tseng Kuo-wen suffered from a bruise and had a mild concussion. 

Tseng, 26, who was in the front seat, had 426 flying hours, while Chang, 37, in the rear seat, had 2,230 flying hours. Ke said the planes were flying at an altitude of about 16,000 feet and a speed of 300 miles per hour, with the No. 0816 trainer in the lead and the other plane three feet behind when the mishap occurred. The left horizontal tail of the leading trainer was ripped off after the collision. 

"The military has ruled out the possibility of weather as a factor and believes that pilot error could have caused the mishap," Ke said, speculating that the planes did not maintain a safe distance between them. He vowed to conduct a thorough review of the mishap and determine the cause as soon as possible. The debris of the crashed plane was spotted in a mountainous region in Pingtung in southern Taiwan and will be retrieved Saturday. Media reports said the aging trainers have been involved in 12 mishaps over the past three decades, resulting in the death of seven pilots and injuring nine others.

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