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Mechanical failure might be cause of F-5E fighter crash last year: MND

ROC Central News Agency

03/25/2021 10:34 PM

Taipei, March 25 (CNA) The crash of a Taiwanese F-5E fighter plane off Taiwan's east coast in October 2020 that resulted in the death of a pilot might have been caused by mechanical problems, Air Force Chief of Staff Huang Chih-wei (黃志偉) said Thursday, citing a preliminary investigation report.

The F-5E fighter jet crashed into the sea near Chihhang Air Base in eastern Taiwan less than two minutes after taking off in the morning on Oct. 29, 2020.

Its pilot, Chu Kuan-meng (朱冠甍), 29, ejected from the plane, but succumbed to head injuries.

On Thursday, Huang said at a legislative session, mechanical failure might have caused the accident, but he added that the findings have yet to be confirmed.

When taking off, Chu issued a call saying "there is something wrong with the engine," Huang said, adding that based on video footage and the testimony of witnesses, it was found that something had indeed gone wrong with the engine.

The pilot of another F-5E fighter also spotted signs of trouble in Chu's aircraft, such as a small thrust its engine produced to propel the plane and difficulties picking up speed quickly.

Although no debris from the wreckage of the plane has been retrieved, it was initially determined the tragedy was possibly caused by mechanical failure, Huang added.

Pointing to previous accidents where pilots did not survive after ejecting from their aircraft, Huang said this was mainly because of delayed ejection and constraints on flight maneuvers.

Under such conditions, even if a pilot ejected from a fighter, he could sustain severe injuries, Huang said.

In Chu's case, although he ejected from the fighter jet successfully, the aircraft tilted toward the right side at that time, and he might have bumped his head into the fuselage of the plane or his head might have smashed against the sea and sustained fatal injuries, as he faced the sea surface when ejecting, Huang said.

Meanwhile, the Taitung District Prosecutors' Office prosecutor Tseng Yang-ling (曾揚嶺) said that there is a strong possibility that Chu sustained injuries to his head when he crashed against the sea wall.

Taiwan has set up a U.S. military certified ejection seat simulator (ESS), a multifunctional simulation platform that enables a pilot to learn when and how to eject, in Gangshan, Kaohsiung City, Huang said, adding that under the program, pilots will receive a training session every four years.

Huang's remarks came after the safety of the ejection seats on the Air Force's F-5E fighters has been called into question after a mid-air collision between two of the jets on Monday left one pilot dead and another missing.

The two F-5E fighters collided over southeastern Pingtung County during a training mission Monday afternoon, with one pilot having ejected from the plane before being found at sea and pronounced dead after arrival at hospital, while the pilot of the other plane is believed to have also ejected, but remained missing.

(By Matt Yu and Evelyn Kao)

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