The air force grounded its F-5 fighter jet fleet yesterday after a crash off Penghu during a routine training mission killed two pilots.
“All F-5F-related training projects have been suspended until a thorough safety check is completed,”Cingcyuangang Air Force Base spokesman Colonel Hsieh Mao-sung (謝茂淞) said.
The F-5F twin-seat jet fighter took off from Cingcyuangang (清泉崗) air base in Taichung at 11:14am for a live fire exercise on a reef in Penghu, but disappeared from radar screens at 11:36am, Air Force Command Headquarters said in a statement.
An air force S-70C rescue plane flew to Penghu to conduct search and rescue operations, the statement said.
“We have discovered pieces of the plane and some body parts,” Hsieh told a press conference at 5pm. “But we still need further confirmation to determine whether they belonged to the pilots.”
The F-5F, a reconnaissance plane and trainer, belonged to the Air Force’s Fleet 737.
It was being flown by Lieutenant Huang Ting-yu (黃挺瑜), 26, while flight instructor Lieutenant Colonel Chang Liang-yuan (張良元), 43, was sitting behind him.
Huang was a bachelor who had a flight record of 294 hours, while Chang was the father of two young sons, Hsieh said.
He said the air force had formed a special task force to conduct an investigation.
Taiwan has about 60 F-5s, development of which began in the 1950s.
Hsieh said that the F-5F in yesterday’s crash had been in service for 32 years. During that time, F-5Fs have been involved in 30 accidents, killing 32 pilots.