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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Military planes slightly off course before crashing: MND

ROC Central News Agency

2011/09/14 13:57:51

Taipei, Sept. 14 (CNA) Two military planes that crashed in Yilan County Tuesday were found to have deviated slightly from their planned flight paths, but the cause of the accidents still remains unclear, the Ministry of National Defense (MND) said Wednesday.

An F-5F fighter and an RF-5E reconnaissance aircraft disappeared during a nighttime training mission Tuesday night. Parts of the bodies of the missing pilots were found Wednesday morning by a search team.

According to a senior MND official speaking at a press conference, the planes were flying in the right direction but slightly off course.

"There might be a slight deviation but we don't know what caused it," said Caleb Po, an inspector general from the MND's Air Force Command Headquarters.

"There are various factors that can cause a plane to crash," he said. "We cannot be sure at this moment the reason for the accident."

Though the cause of the accident is unclear, the military confirmed Wednesday that the planes did not collide before crashing in Yilan, as was suspected.

Instead, the reconnaissance plane, which was leading the way for the F-5F fighter during the training mission, and the F-5F fighter crashed separately into the mountains in the area.

Po said both planes were flying at 2,000 feet and were in constant communication with the Hualien military base before the crashes. They were not flying at an especially low altitude and visibility was good, he added.

The planes took off from the Air Force base in Hualien at 7:39 p.m. for a nighttime training flight, but they disappeared from radar screens at 7:52 p.m.

Piloting the fighters were Lieutenant Colonel Chang Chien-kuo and Major Wang Hung-hsiang, while Captain Hsiao Wen-min was manning the RF-5E.

Chang, 41, had a flight record of 2,736 hours and Wang, 36, had logged 1,800 hours. The 29-year-old Hsiao was the least experienced pilot of the trio, with 860 hours of flight time. (By Nancy Liu) ENDITEM/ls



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