Army probing cause of Apache helicopter crash
ROC Central News Agency
Taipei, April 25 (CNA) The Army is investigating what caused an Apache helicopter to crash into a residential building in Taoyuan County earlier Friday, and has not ruled out human error, weather conditions or mechanical failure, it said.
The helicopter, one of 18 AH-64E Apache attack helicopters delivered to Taiwan from the United States just months earlier, was conducting flight training in the morning when it crashed into the top of a three-story building in Longtan Township, damaging several homes and lightly injuring the two pilots but causing no serious injuries.
The Army said that the helicopter had climbed to an altitude of 350 feet before being shrouded in cloud cover that suddenly dropped to 200 feet before the crash-landing.
Flight instructor Maj. Chen Lung-chien, one of the two onboard the aircraft, said that changes in humidity and temperature fogged up the cockpit windshield, forcing him to try to climb above the cloud ceiling, but even the helicopter's night-vision features proved useless.
With no reference point amid the clouds, Chen said he tried to keep the helicopter horizontal as much as he could, but the lack of visibility and low altitude drove the aircraft to crash land on top of the building at 10:05 a.m.
Chen has logged a total of 1,247 flight hours, 350 of which are in Apache helicopters, while Lt. Col. Liu Ming-hui, the pilot, has a total of 1,034 flight hours but none in an Apache.
Chen was trained on the Apache in the U.S. and serves as its test flight instructor, according to the Army.
The helicopter they were flying had its transmission boxes replaced on March 13 after arriving in Taiwan due to concerns arising from a mechanical problem last year in the U.S. on the same model.
It was flown north to the Longtan base from Tainan in southern Taiwan March 21 and put into use for flight training April 17.
The Army has grounded its fleet of AH-64E Apache helicopters following the incident.
It has said it will handle paying out damages for the homes affected by the crash landing.
Whether the helicopter, which costs millions of U.S. dollars, can be repaired and put back into service will require further study, the Army said.
Between November 2013 and March this year, Taiwan took delivery of 18 of the newest Apache models.
They arrived in three shipments that form part of an order for 30, bought for NT$59.31 billion (US$2.01 billion) under a deal announced in 2008 by then-U.S. President George W. Bush
(By Chiu Chun-chin, Bien Chin-fon and Lilian Wu)
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