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Late pilot honored by Ma at memorial service

Late Air Force pilot Col. Wang Tung-yi (王同義) who died in a recent crash in France was posthumously honored by President Ma Ying-jeou yesterday with a citation for his dedication to his mission and his last-minute selflessness that prevented the loss of many others' lives.

The citation was delivered at a memorial service for Wang at an air base in Hsinchu in Northern Taiwan, where he was a squadron member. Wang's wife, who was present at the service and was joined by Wang's comrades and family members, accepted the citation from the president. Ma also awarded a medal and promoted Wang to the rank of colonel at the commemorative ceremony.

Wang, 37, died Oct. 3 in a crash in France, where he had been since 2010 as part of a flight-training program.

Wang was commended in the citation for his excellent performance and dedication to his mission. He was also cited for his conscious efforts to prevent loss of life by steering his Mirage 2000-5 fighter jet clear of residential communities in the Luxeuil-les-Bains area in the final moments before the crash.

Wang's training in France was part of an agreement between Taipei and Paris whereby local Air Force pilots are sent to France biennially to undertake a two-year training program. This agreement was signed as part of a 1992 arms deal that saw Taiwan purchase 60 Mirage 2000-5s from France.

Wang was set to finish his two-year program in November.

The Taiwanese pilot's Mirage 2000-5 jet fighter lost contact shortly after takeoff from Luxeuil Air Base on Oct. 3 and crashed into a wooded area some 500 meters from a cluster of houses, according to French reports.

The cause of the crash is still being investigated and it could take at least six months before an initial investigation report is completed, according to local military officials.

Admirable Deed

An Air Force official who knew Wang said the pilot was a diligent, well-liked and highly skilled pilot that was fluent in both English and French — a reason for his selection in the training program.

As a devoted Christian, Wang, in an act described as admirable and selfless, gave up the chance to eject while he still could and instead steered the fighter jet clear of a residential area at the cost of his own life, the official said.

During yesterday's ceremony, Wang's coffin was draped with the national flag. The ceremony concluded with a flyby of four Mirage fighters and a gun salute by eight military police officers in recognition of his contribution to the country.

Aside from Ma, the ceremony was also joined by Defense Minister Kao Hua-chu (高華柱), Chief of General Staff Gen. Lin Chen-yi (林鎮夷), Air Force Commander Yen Ming (嚴明) and other senior military officers.

France's top representative to Taiwan, Olivier Richard, also participated the event to pay tribute to Wang.

A funeral was held last week for Wang at an air base in eastern France where he was in training. His cremated remains were brought home by his family last Friday.

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Four Mirage fighters perform a flyover to salute late Air Force pilot Col. Wang Tung-yi (王同義) in Hsinchu, yesterday. Wang died Oct. 3 at the age of 37 in a plane crash in France.(CNA)

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