Friday, February 03, 2012

Mid-air collision injures 2 pilots in Air Force's AT-3

Two Air Force officers received minor fracture injuries yesterday when an AT-3 trainer plane belonging to the R.O.C. Air Force Academy crashed in a mountain region in Pingtung County, southern Taiwan after touching another plane in mid-air.

The two officers ejected and later landed with parachutes when their plane was completely destroyed.

Two other officers in a separate plane involved in the incident managed to fly back to the Gangshan Air Force Base in Kaohsiung city safe and sound.

Firefighters said the two injured officer were rushed to hospital for treatment. One of them had a bone fracture, while the other sustained hand injuries.

Maj. Gen. Ke Wen-an, superintendent of the Air Force Academy, identified the two rescued officers as 1st Lt. Tseng Kuo-wei, 26, taking the front seat. He has 426 hours of flight experience.

Taking the rear seat was Lt. Col. Chang Kuo-chiang, 37, who has logged 2,030 flight hours on various training and flight missions.

The Air Force Academy said the trainer planes took off from the air base at around 3:37 p.m. for routine training session of airborne formation.

But the incident took place when the AT-3 trainer jets were at 4:10 p.m. when they got too close with a gap of just three feet at an altitude of about 16,000 feet.

During the flight, the plane of Tseng and Chang touched the jet in front of them and clipped the left part of its horizontal stabilizer at the tail.

The slightly damaged plane managed to fly back to base.

But Tseng and Chang lost control of their plane which abruptly started dropping and forced them to jump out of the plane with parachutes before it crashed at the upstream section of Shiwen Creek on the border of Fangliao and Chunjih townships of Pingtung County.

Ke said preliminary probe ruled out foul weather factors or mechanical glitches. Human error during the training could have caused the mishap.

But he also stressed that the real factor will be determined only after the completion of more detailed investigation.

AT-3 aircraft have long been used in Taiwan for training Air Force pilots.

'The jets were also employed for flight shows for certain events. Several AT-3 jets took part in the Oct. 10 National Day celebrations of the centennial anniversary of the founding of the Republic of China (R.O.C.) last year by flying over the Presidential Office in Taipei and releasing colored smoke trails over the sky.

But AT-3 aircraft were also known to have been involved in several incidents resulting in the deaths of seven pilots and injuring another nine since 1988.

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