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May 30, 2017

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Air Force C-130 returns after delivering supplies to Haiti

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- An Air Force C-130 transport plane returned to Taiwan yesterday after an unprecedented 40,000 kilometer round-trip flight to deliver medical supplies and relief goods to earthquake-ravaged Haiti, one of Taiwan's 23 diplomatic allies.

All of the plane's 23 crew members, led by Col. Chang Hai-pin who also heads the Air Force 439 Wing, received a hero's welcome from Minister of National Defense Kao Hua-chu, other defense officials and members of their families after returning to the Songshan military air base in Taipei City.

Kao said the military mobilized for the humanitarian aid mission immediately after Haiti was struck by a deadly magnitude-7 earthquake Jan. 12.

"The round-trip flight across the Pacific Ocean took 15 days to complete, during which many of Taiwan's diplomatic allies and countries with no diplomatic ties with Taiwan extended assistance to our propeller-driven plane," Kao said.

"We are grateful for their generous help...Without their kind assistance, we would not have been able to complete this trying mission," he added.

According to the minister, the plane flew over the United States (U.S.) mainland and deep into the Caribbean region and weathered many obstacles, such as refueling, maintenance, bad weather and jet lag. "The smooth completion of the mission was the fruit of stringent regular training of our military personnel and the assistance of other countries," Kao said.

Out of respect for countries that do not diplomatically recognize Taiwan and for possible future similar cooperation, Kao said he could not go into detail about the plane's flight route.

But he indicated that the experience gained from the mission was precious.

"In the future, our military and medical staff will cooperate even more actively in regional and global post-disaster humanitarian relief missions," Kao said.

He presented medals to all of the crew members in recognition of their efforts in completing the mission as scheduled.

The plane had to fly up to 10,500 nautical miles over 40 hours on a one-way flight, both of which set records for Taiwan's Air Force, said Chang, who disclosed that most of the route was over water. The flight marked the first time that Taiwan's Air Force completed a mission with U.S. assistance since the U.S. switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979, he added.

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