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June, 1, 2016

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Air Force pilot killed in AT-3 jet crash

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- An R.O.C. Air Force AT-3 trainer jet pilot was killed yesterday following a crash over Kaohsiung City after his aircraft collided with another AT-3 during routine training, the Air Force said yesterday.

The pilot, Lieutenant Colonel Chuang Pei-yuan (莊倍源), tried to parachute to safety after the collision occurred around 11:17 a.m., R.O.C. Air Force Academy superintendent Major General Chang Yan-ting (張延廷) said at an emergency press conference in Kaohsiung yesterday.

He suffered serious injuries after the plane crashed in a field in Tzukuan District in Kaohsiung and showed weak signs of life when he was rescued. He was immediately sent to a nearby military hospital but doctors were unable to revive him, Chang said.

Meanwhile, the AT-3 that collided with Chuang's aircraft safely returned to the academy in Kaohsiung; its pilot, Lieutenant Colonel Yang Chih-ping (楊志平), did not suffer serious injuries during the incident, Chang said.

A medical team is now evaluating Yang's physical and psychological condition, he added.

Speaking during the same press conference, Wang Hsuan-chou (汪旋周), director-general of the Air Force's Political Warfare Department, said an ad hoc committee has been formed to conduct a thorough review of the collision and determine the cause as soon as possible.

The Air Force will ground all of its AT-3 trainer planes for inspection following the collision.

According to the Air Force, the planes were trainers used by the Air Force's Thunder Tigers Acrobatic Team and were on a routine training session when the collision occurred.

The two training aircraft were among the seven AT-3s that took off from the Kaohsiung-based academy yesterday morning for formation training in preparation for an upcoming aviation show to be held at Chiayi City for a sports event on Oct. 25.

The acrobatic team often stages flyover or aviation shows at major events and celebrations, including the just-concluded Double Tenth National Day, according to the Air Force.

Both Chuang and Yang are seasoned pilots of the team who had worked together at previous shows since 2011. Chuang, 37, had 2,580 flying hours while Yang, 37, had 2,558 flying hours.

Wang said the team has now decided to call off its participation in the Oct. 25 event following the incident.

Too Late to Parachute to Safety

The Ministry of National Defense (MND) yesterday expressed condolences for the loss of the pilot, adding that in the final moments of the flight, Chuang made a conscious effort to steer the jet clear of residential communities to prevent loss of life as shown in footage of the incident.

The move ultimately made it impossible for him to parachute to safety, the MND spokesperson said on his official Facebook page.

The AT-3 trainer has been used as an aircraft for the acrobatic team for over 26 years, according to the Air Force. A total of 158 aviation shows have been staged by the team so far.

Local media reported yesterday that at least 13 incidents involving AT-3 jets have been reported since 1990.

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A crane lifts the wrecked fuselage of an R.O.C. Air Force AIDC AT-3 jet trainer aircraft out of the crash site in Kaohsiung, yesterday. A mid-air collision during routine formation flight maneuvers resulted in the loss of control of one of the aircraft. (CNA)

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