AIR FORCE OFFICER PRAISES PILOTS' 'HEROIC DECISION'
ROC Central News Agency
Taipei, May 15 (CNA) The two co-pilots of the F-5F jet fighter that crashed during an exercise last week missed the opportunity to eject to safety because they chose not to let the stalled plane go down in a residential area, a spokesman for the Air Force said Tuesday.
Air Force Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Liu Chen-wu praised that it was a "heroic decision."
Liu made the remarks at a press conference at the Ministry of National Defense (MND) while releasing the preliminary results of the investigation by the Air Force into the accident. The jet fighter crashed into a military base in Hukou, Hsinchu County in northern Taiwan, killing both pilots as well as two Singaporean troops on the ground.
The crash caused a fire at the barracks housing Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) soldiers participating in a training program. Nine other SAF soldiers were injured, sustaining varying degrees of burns, with two of them in critical condition.
Liu explained that a plane crash tends to be caused by either environmental factors, mechanical problems or human error, or a combination of all these factors.
He said the investigators have concluded that the F-5F pilots -- instructor Maj. Wei Tzu-yuan and intelligence officer Capt. Chang Chia-chun -- failed to pull up safely immediately after firing their guns and releasing bombs during a rehearsal for the Han Kuang 23 military exercises, adding that low visibility may have misled the pilots when they calculated their altitude.
The result was that the aircraft stalled and crashed, Liu said.
As to what caused the low visibility on such a clear day, Liu said that the investigators blame the smoke and dust stirred up by ground troops firing their guns during the rehearsal.
Although the F-5F jet fighter had undergone regular checks and had been in good condition over the past half year, Liu said, it is still possible that the plane experienced mechanical problems, adding that problems with the plane's engine could have been a key factor in the accident.
Nevertheless, he said that a thorough examination of the plane wreckage will have to be conducted to determine whether mechanical problems were a factor in the accident.
(By Elizabeth Hsu)
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