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Search continues for missing trainer plane

ROC Central News Agency

2010/01/26 22:25:26

Kaohsiung, Jan. 26 (CNA) No clues had been found to an Air Force twin-seater T-34 trainer plane that went missing during a routine training flight Tuesday with two pilots aboard, military sources said later that day.

"Because of poor visibility in the mountains, an aerial search had to be stopped in the evening, but a land search is still going all-out with the military cooperating closely with local fire fighting personnel and private rescuers, " said Tai Chan-teh, a spokesman for an army unit stationed in southern Taiwan's Kaohsiung County.

The trainer took off from the Air Force Academy at 1:05 p.m. on a training flight west of Kangshan in Kaohsiung County, but the plane lost contact with the military flight control tower and disappeared from the radar screen at 1:40 p.m., an Air Force Command Headquarters press statement said.

Chang Kuo-hua, an Air Force Academy official, said the propeller-driven trainer was flying over the Nanhua Reservoir when the pilots last contacted the control tower at 1:20 p.m.

"At the time, they said the weather was fair and suitable for flight," Chang said.

Some residents in mountainous Nanmashia township reported to police authorities later Tuesday that they heard a blast in the nearby region.

Military authorities sent personnel to comb the region, but had found no clues as of press time, officials said.

The two officers aboard the trainer were 25-year-old Chen Tze-yu, a second lieutenant who graduated from the academy in 2008 with a flight record of 110 hours, and 48-year-old flight instructor Yao Chien-bao, with a flight record of 4,235 hours. Yao retired from the Air Force last year but later returned to serve as a flight instructor. The U.S.-built T-34 trainer planes have been in service for more than 30 years. The Air Force purchased a batch of T-34 trainer planes from the United States in 1985 for basic flight training.

In the past decade, a T-34 trainer once made an emergency landing after a bird strike, but the pilots managed to eject safely.

The military has grounded all T-34 trainers for safety checks after Tuesday's incident, miltiary soruces said.

(By Sofia Wu) ENDITEM/J

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