A small training aircraft used by the Air Force Academy crashed yesterday in mountains near Liukuei Township (六龜), Kaohsiung County, killing a flight instructor and a cadet.
Chi Pi-lieh (祁丕烈), director of the academy’s Political Warfare Department, said the Beech T-34C Turbo Mentor plane took off from the academy at 1:08pm on a routine training flight and disappeared from radar screens at 2:02pm.
At about 2pm, the fire bureau said it began receiving calls from people reporting an air crash in the vicinity of Butterfly Valley near Sinliao Village (新寮).
Residents told reporters they saw smoke billowing from a plane before it crashed and burst into flames.
Bureau officials said the crash site was in a deep valley that was difficult to access. However, a helicopter eventually managed to reach the scene and airlifted instructor Niu Peng-yu (牛鵬育), 49, and 27-year-old pilot Liu Che-hung (劉哲宏) to a nearby hospital. Both men later died of their injuries.
The air force said T-34s do not have an automatic eject mechanism, so the pilots would have had to open the cockpit hatch manually to escape.
A T-34 crashed in Kaohsiung County in January, killing pilots Chen Tse-yu (陳澤宇) and Yau Chien-bao (饒健保).
The air force bought 44 T-34Cs from the US in 1980 to replace its aging fleet of AIDC T-CH-1s. It began using the T-34 as its main trainer in May 1985.
The T-34C is used as the primary training aircraft for US Navy and Marine Corps pilots. The turbo prop powered plane has been used by air forces worldwide, including those of Japan, Canada and France.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY STAFF WRITER AND CNA