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Service for fighter pilot to be held today

TAIPEI -- A funeral ceremony will be held in northern Taiwan today to pay tribute to a Taiwanese fighter pilot, who died recently during a military plane crash in France while training, a defense ministry official said yesterday.

The president had issued a statement last week, formally promoting Wang from lieutenant colonel to colonel, which has taken effect.

Defense Minister Kao Hua-chu will also award Wang a posthumous medal at the ceremony commemorating his excellent performance and dedication to his mission, said Ministry of National Defense spokesman Maj. Gen. Luo Shou-he.

The ceremony, which will be held at the Hsinchu Air Base, where Wang was a squadron member, will conclude with a group of Mirage 2000-5 jet fighters flying off as a mark of respect to the fallen pilot, Luo said.

Wang, 37, died during a training operation in eastern France on Oct. 3. His Mirage 2000-5 fighter jet lost contact shortly after taking off from the Luxeuil Air Base, and reportedly crashed into a wooded area some 500 meters from a cluster of houses, French reports said.

“The cause of the crash is still being investigated,” Luo said, adding that a team from Taiwan's Air Force is working with the French authorities to identify the reasons behind the accident.

It could take at least six months before the reasons behind the crash are revealed, he added.

Wang's ashes were brought home on Oct. 12 by his family, after a funeral was held early last week at the French air base, where he was in training. During the funeral service, the Taiwanese pilot was posthumously awarded a flying medal by the French Air Force.

The French Air Force said that in his final moments, Wang made a conscious effort to steer the plane clear of residential communities in the Luxeuil-les-Bains area, so as to prevent any loss of life.

Wang arrived in France in 2010 for flight training and was set to finish the two-year program in November.

Taiwan sends a pilot to France biennially to undertake a two-year training program that is part of a 1992 arms deal, under which Taiwan bought 60 Mirage 2000-5s from France.

The Mirage 2000-5 is one of Taiwan's main combat aircraft.

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