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Pilots of crashed chopper tried to avoid crashing into houses: Army

ROC Central News Agency

07/16/2020 09:32 PM

Taipei, July 16 (CNA) Two pilots of a military OH-58D helicopter did their best to avoid crashing into civilian houses before their chopper made a fatal crash-landing in northern Taiwan's Hsinchu Air Base Thursday afternoon, killing both of them, according to a senior Army official.

Major General Chang Tai-sung (張台松), commander of the Taoyuan-based 601st Brigade where the chopper was listed, told reporters that the incident happened when the pilot, Army Major Chien Jen-chuan (簡任專) and co-pilot Captain Kao Chia-lung (高嘉隆) of the chopper were on their way back to Taoyaun City from Hsinchu Air Base after concluding a round of live-fire drill as part of the annual week-long Han Kuang military exercises.

Initial probes of the incident showed that two minutes after their chopper took off at 3:25 p.m., the pilots had reported back to the air traffic control tower that the helicopter was showing low rotor speed while flying 400 feet above the ground, Chang said.

The standard response to such a warning is to land the chopper immediately instead of keep flying, Chang said.

However, the chopper was flying above a residential area at the time so both pilots decided that they should turn around and head back to the air base to avoid causing civilian casualties, the general said.

They attempted to perform an 180 degree left turn but probably due to the lack of rotor speed, the aircraft crashed at 3:28 p.m. in the air base, Chang added, citing initial findings.

Both pilots were critically injured after the crash and were immediately sent to the nearby Hsin Chu Armed Forces Hospital but could not be resuscitated and were pronounced dead, according to the military.

Chien and Kao had logged 1,101 and 250 flying hours respectively and were both listed under the 601st Brigade of the Army Aviation and Special Forces Command.

In response, the Army said it has grounded all of its OH-58D helicopters, which were purchased from the U.S., pending safety checks. An ad hoc investigative committee was also set up to probe the reason behind the crash, said an Army Command Headquarters press release.

Thursday's accident marks the third crash involving an OH-58D operated by Taiwan's military in two years. The previous two crashes occurred in March 2018 and May this year, neither of which resulted in any fatalities.

Thursday was the fourth-day of the Han Kuang live-fire exercises, which are being held from Monday through Friday. Despite the chopper crash, Taiwan military said Friday's exercises will be staged as scheduled.

The major war games, involving all branches of the military and reserve forces, have been held every year since the early 1980s to test Taiwan's combat readiness in the event of an attack by China.

(By Kuo Hsuan-wen, Lu Kang-chun, Shen ru-feng, Matt Yu and Joseph Yeh)

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