Two MND jets crash in Yilan mountains
The China Post news staffTwo aircraft crashed in the mountains of Yilan County around 7:48 p.m. yesterday, setting the peaks aflame upon impact near the 116.4-kilometer mark of Suhua Highway, local fishermen in the area reported.
September 14, 2011, 11:51 pm TWN
The crashed aircraft are military fighter jets from the Ministry of National Defense (MND).
At press time, MND Spokesperson Lo Shao-he (羅紹和) confirmed that three pilots had gone missing after performing a night-time flight training, taking off at 7:39 p.m. in Hualien yesterday.
The aircraft lost contact less than 15 minutes later and became undetectable by 7:52 p.m., when they reportedly reached the Yilan region.
Search-and-rescue teams and hundreds of soldiers have been dispatched to the Yilan stretch of Provincial Highway No. 9 to locate the air force pilots.
The crashed planes are suspected to be an F-5F and RF-5E fighter jet from the 401st Tactical Fighter Wing.
Captain Hsiao Wen-ming (蕭文民), 29, has been identified as the pilot of the RF5-E fighter jet, with the serial number 5506. Lieutenant Colonel Chang Chien-kuo (常建國), 41, was the pilot of the F-5F while Major Wang Hong-hsiang (王鴻祥), 36, served as co-pilot.
The fishermen in the nearby coasts of Hualien and Yilan witnessed two loud, low-flying jets that appeared to be erratically out of control.
The aircraft flew along the Suhua Highway, heading for the surrounding mountains before disappearing from view.
A few seconds later, flames and smoke exploded across the Yilan mountains, according to witnesses.
The fishermen, suspecting that the crash had been military drill-related, called the army brigade and Su-ao police to sift through the wreckage.
Search and rescue teams quickly arrived on scene, although the mountain mist resulted in poor visibility that made the search difficult.
Local media reported that wreckage in the mountains has been identified as the fighter jet parts. Lo denied the report, only saying at press time that three pilots had gone off the radar pending further investigative details.
The Yilan County fire department received the MND call of missing fighter jets around 7:48 p.m.
Firefighters also heeded the fishermen's reports of the aircraft crashes and subsequent mountain in flames; the department said they swiftly relayed the fishermen's report to the MND.
In the 36-year-history of F-5F fighter jets, which are manufactured in Taiwan, used in the R.O.C. Air Force, 32 have reportedly crashed, proving to be a high accident rate.