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September 22, 2017

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Lawmaker farce does little to help boost national defense

Blaming helicopter crashes on the so-called President Ma Ying-jeou jinx does little to help Taiwan's defense capability.

An accident involving military aircraft occurred last week when a U.S.-made AH-64E Apache attack helicopter belonging to the R.O.C. Army crashed in northern Taoyuan County.

The helicopter was conducting flight training when it crashed onto the top of a three-story building in Longtan Township, damaging several homes. Fortunately, the two pilots onboard only suffered minor injuries.

Following the crash, the Army ordered the grounding of all 18 AH-64E Apache attack helicopters that Taiwan had purchased from the U.S. until further notice.

An investigative committee — its members including representatives of the Boeing Company, which produced the chopper — has been decoding information from the black box to determine whether it was human error, weather conditions or mechanical failure that caused the accident, according to Army officials.

This is the second Army helicopter crash since 2008. An Army AH-1W Super Cobra crashed in Longtan on July 16, 2008, killing the two pilots onboard.

The latest accident deserves the military's close attention because it has been less than six months since Taiwan received the 18 AH-64E Apaches from the U.S.

The 18 aircraft are part of an order of 30 that Taiwan purchased for NT$59.31 billion (US$2.01 billion) in a deal announced in 2008 by then-U.S. President George W. Bush.

A grounding orders was placed on the 18 choppers late last year after the discovery of a problem with the main transmission of an AH-64E in the U.S. That order had only been lifted since February.

There are a lot of questions left unanswered regarding the causes of the incident. Unfortunately, following the accident, most local media outlets have turned their attention to the "Ma Ying-jeou jinx" and alleged that the crash had something to do with Ma having previously sat inside the aircraft in question. During a ceremony to welcome the arrival of the high-tech military equipment last December, President Ma had his photographs taken in the very same helicopter that crashed last week.

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