Thu, Jul 22, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Jet fighters carry out freeway landing

DISASTER SCENARIO Although pilots carried off yesterday's exercise without a hitch, a retired army general said there is nothing special about landing on a freeway

By Jimmy Chuang  /  STAFF REPORTER

A Mirage 2000-5 lands on the Sun Yat-sen Freeway yesterday as part of the Han Kuang military exercises. Two fighters landed, refueled and re-armed before taking off from the section of highway temporarily designated as the ``Jenteh Runway.''

PHOTO: SEAN CHAO, TAIPEI TIMES

Two Mirage 2000-5 jet fighters yesterday landed on the Sun Yat-sen Freeway, refueled, loaded up with ammunition and took off within 40 minutes during the annual Han Kuang military exercise in Tainan County.

The landing on the Jenteh section of the freeway was the climax of the military exercise, which began yesterday and involves the air force, army and navy.

The Mirages practiced landing, refueling and reloading as part of a scenario in which the air force's major airports were assumed to have been destroyed.

Three Mirages, a single-seat fighter and two two-seaters, took off from the Hsinchu air base at 5:42am and arrived at the "Jenteh Runway" around 6:20am. The single-seat Mirage patrolled the skies while its wing mates carried out the freeway mission.

The first Mirage, flown by Major Chang Wei-kwang (張維光) and Lieutenant-Colonel Twan Juei-chi (段瑞棋), landed at 6:20am. Two minutes later Captain Chen Chien-liang (陳建良) and Lieutenant-Colonel Wu Bin-fu (吳斌福) landed the second fighter on the same runway. The two Mirages took off around 7am and returned to the Hsinchu base.

The air force introduced the four pilots who took part in the landing drill to the media at a press conference at the base later yesterday.

The 28-year-old Chen received the most attention, not only because he is the youngest pilot in the group, but also because of his younger brother, Chen Chien-chou (陳建洲), a famous TV personality and former member of the national basketball team. Their father, who had been an officer in the air force and a China Airlines pilot, died in the Nagoya crash in 1994.

"This is quite an experience. But I did not do anything fancy. We just followed the drill and did what we were trained for. I am quite sure every air force pilot can do this," Chen Chien-liang said.

"I will definitely pass my experience on to my fellow junior pilots. That is the spirit of the air force," he said.

Meanwhile, retired army general Shui Hua-ming (帥化民) said that there was nothing special about yesterday's exercise and that it was merely for show.

"Landing on the freeway is no different from landing on a regular runway. The only difference is, well, it is the freeway, not an airport," Shui said.

"The idea behind landing on the freeway is to use it in case major airports are destroyed. But if the enemy can destroy your airports, why can't they destroy the freeway as well?" he asked.

"What pilots actually need to practice is landing the aircraft safely on a runway at any time whenever necessary," he said.

Shui said that yesterday's exercise was more useful as propaganda to warn China that "We are capable of doing this, although we haven't done anything like it for the past 25 years."

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