A fighter jet plunged to the ground and exploded as it took part in an air display at a show in northern China yesterday, organizers and state media said.
State-run television CCTV showed images of the Chinese-made plane falling from the sky and bursting into flames when it hit the ground at the show in Shaanxi Province.
The pilot managed to eject and was seen parachuting to safety, but a journalist at the scene said the parachute had not fully opened and it was unclear whether the pilot was injured when he landed.
THe journalist said there were no casualties on the ground.
It was unclear what type of fighter plane was involved in the crash. Xinhua news agency said it was a two-seat, fighter-bomber Flying Leopard — or JH-7 — a model officially launched in December 1988.
However, CCTV said it was a “Xiaolong” (Fierce Dragon) fighter jet — or FC-1 — which is the result of a joint Sino-Pakistani development program that started in 1999.
“The plane malfunctioned and an investigation team has been sent to the scene,” said a spokeswoman for the China International General Aviation Convention, the organizer of the air show held at Xian’s Pucheng Neifu airport.
She said she did not know what type of plane it was, adding she had no further details as the scene of the incident was far from the main air show venue.
Reporters for Xinhua, who were present at the air display, said they saw heavy smoke billowing from the ground after the crash, but added the show was continuing.
According to the People’s Daily newspaper, about 100 foreign and domestic planes are on display at the air show, and about 30 aircraft are putting on displays.
Hungarian, Swedish, US and Lithuanian aerobatic teams have been invited to participate in the three-day show, which is expected to attract around 100,000 people, it added.
The accident is the latest to hit the Chinese air force.
In January 2007, a military aircraft crashed in a southern Chinese city after a mid-air explosion, but the pilot survived, according to press reports.
In June the previous year, an early warning aircraft crashed in Anhui Province, killing all 40 people on board — an accident described as the “worst air disaster in the history of China’s air force.”
Two months before the Anhui crash, a jet fighter came down on Hainan Island after a mid-air explosion and in 2004, a Chinese F-7 fighter jet on a training mission over Hubei Province crashed into civilian housing, resulting in the death of a child on the ground.
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