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June 28, 2017

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Watchdog questions Army explanation for Apache crash

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The highest government watchdog body has questioned the Army's explanation of the recent crash of a U.S.-made Apache helicopter, saying the military seems to be too hasty in laying the blame on one of the two pilots on board.

Chao Chang-ping, who is in charge of a Control Yuan probe into the accident, has listed several dubious aspects, one of them pointing to an alleged contradiction in the Army's official version of who had control of the AH-64E at the time of the crash, according to the United Evening News.

The chopper, which was among several Apaches recently delivered from the United States, crashed into the roof a three-story building during a training flight last month, damaging a number of apartments in Taoyuan.

The two personnel on board, Major Chen Lung-chien and Lt. Colonel Liu Ming-hui, only sustained minor injuries, and no civilians were injured.

The Army quickly had Chen publicly admit during a press conference that he became lost after the cockpit windows fogged up.

But Chao questions whether Chen was actually flying the helicopter, as during the press conference the Army authorities described Liu as the pilot in command for that flight, according to the newspaper.

Chao bases his suspicions on the fact that Chen has received training for flying Apaches, and he was training Liu at the time.

That particular flight session was supposed to be hover training, 120 feet above the ground, but the AH-64E suddenly climbed to 350 feet before tilting 45 degrees and stalling.

The watchdog member also wants to know whether the chopper had deviated from its designated flying zone, according to the newspaper.

The probe also seeks to determine why the cockpit defogging functions failed.

Chao is expected to inspect the wreckage of the Apache tomorrow, and hopes to interview the two Army pilots.

Chao was cited by the paper as saying that it would be difficult to seek compensation from the U.S. when the Army has already admitted it is a case of human error.

He said the major focus of his probe is not on determining punishments for personnel at fault.

It is more important to determine whether the Apaches are safe, whether the military has been giving sufficient training to its pilots, and whether the attack choppers meet the needs of Taiwan, he said.

He said the black box of the crashed chopper must not be examined by the military alone, demanding that the Cabinet's flight safety committee intervene.

The Army grounded all Apaches after the crash.

Taiwan has already taken delivery of 18 of the 30 Apaches it ordered from the United States. The entire deal is worth more than US$2 billion.

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