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June 23, 2017

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Environment, human error blamed for crash of Apache

TAIPEI--The environment and human error were found to be the main causes of the April crash of an AH-64E Apache attack helicopter in Northern Taiwan, the Army said Tuesday morning when it presented the conclusions of its investigation into the accident.

"Mechanical failure has been ruled out as a cause of the crash," said Maj. Gen. Huang Kuo-ming, deputy inspector-general of the Army, at a news conference held at the Ministry of National Defense.

The Army formed a task force to look into the crash shortly after it occurred on April 25, and the investigation report was completed on June 5 and later sent to the Defense Ministry for review, he said.

The investigation found that a sudden change in the climate and the pilot's inability to respond properly to the situation caused the advanced aircraft to crash, he said.

When the two pilots were conducting the training mission at an altitude of 120 feet, the cloud ceiling suddenly fell below 200 feet, causing the aircraft to get caught in the clouds, he said.

This affected the visibility of the pilot Maj. Chen Lung-chien, a flight instructor who was flying the helicopter, and led to spatial disorientation, said Huang, who noted that Chen should have relied on his flight instruments to keep tracak of his altitude and direction.

Spatial disorientation refers to the inability of a person to determine his true body position, motion and altitude relative to the earth or his surroundings.

After the incident, Huang said, the Army has also taken measures to strengthen its flight training to avoid similar incidents, and Apache training operations have now returned to normal, he told reporters.

Asked whether the accident was related to the chopper's main transmission box, Army officials said it was not.

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 models used by the U.S. Army.

Each one of Taiwan's choppers was fitted with a replacement transmission box before being allowed to fly again.

Chen and the other pilot on the ill-fated Apache, Lt. Col. Liu Ming-hui, have been receiving counseling to help them recover from the incident, the Army said.

They will be able to fly again after passing related evaluations, a process that could take six months, said Maj. Gen. Chen Chien-tsai, deputy commander of the Army Aviation Special Forces Command.

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