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Helicopter black box to be analyzed in US

TAIPEI -- The flight recorder from the Apache helicopter that crashed in northern Taiwan during training on Friday, April 25 has been retrieved and is set to be sent to the United States for analysis by the Boeing Company, a Taiwanese official said Monday.

Boeing will send a detailed report on data from the black box, which could shed more light on what caused the brand new aircraft to crash, Lieutenant General Hao Yii-jy, chief of staff of the Army, told a hearing of the Legislature's Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee.

For now, the black box is still inside the damaged helicopter, he said. Military personnel are working with Boeing technicians posted in Taiwan to see if the recorder is damaged, Hao said.

The Ministry of National Defense has formed a task force with U.S. technicians to investigate the crash landing and determine whether it was caused by mechanical failure or human error, he said.

A report will be ready within 45 days, Hao told lawmakers.

The helicopter, one of 18 AH-64E Apache attack helicopters delivered to Taiwan from the United States just months earlier, was conducting flight training April 25 when it crashed into the top of a three-story residential building in Longtan Township in Taoyuan County, damaging four homes but causing no serious injuries, including to the two pilots on board.

Shortly after the crash, the Army grounded the other 17 Apaches. Once it has been determined that the helicopters are safe for flight, they will be put back into service, Hao said.

This is the second time that the Apaches have been grounded since Taiwan began taking delivery of the advanced aircraft from the U.S. in November 2013.

The transmission boxes of the first 12 helicopters delivered to Taiwan were removed and sent back to the U.S. after a main transmission box failure was reported in December in one of the same model used by the U.S. Army. Each of Taiwan's aircraft was fitted with a replacement transmission box before being allowed to take to the air again.

Asked whether the transmission problem had to do with last week's crash, which the flight instructor attributed to low visibility, Hao said: “There is no direct connection.”

If the cause is found to be mechanical in nature, he said, the ministry will seek compensation from the U.S. company. He added that the aircraft is still under its 18-month warranty period.

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