Fri, Nov 15, 2002 - Page 3 News List

Mirage burns after emergency landing


The air force Mirage fighter stands at the Hsinchu air base after making an emergency landing yesterday.


A two-seat Mirage 2000-5 fighter plane yesterday caught fire and had to make an emergency landing at an air base in Hsinchu. The air force said the malfunction was probably caused by bird strikes.

The front part of the Mirage, including the radar inside the nose cone, was on fire for about five minutes after the plane had landed.

Air force general headquarters said it has yet to ascertain whether the plane had sustained any serious damage in the fire.

TV footage showed that the plane's front part was blackened because of the fire. No injuries were reported as a result of the incident.

The two pilots on board the plane got out before the fire broke out. They were trainee Lieutenant Ho Wei-ke (何威克) and instructor Major Lu Teh-chung (盧德忠).

Initial investigations by the air force indicated that the fire might have been fueled by excess fuel, which should have been dumped before the emergency landing.

The fire started in the well of the plane's nose wheel, but before it spread, the two pilots on board were warned of the threat and left the plane in time.

"The remaining fuel might have been leaking as the plane touched down. It might have been ignited by sparks as the plane touched the ground," said a spokesman for the air force.

Major General Liu Chen-wu (劉震武), vice commander of the Hsinchu air base which is home to the Mirage air wing, said it usually takes five minutes for a Mirage pilot to dump the plane's fuel, but it actually took more than six minutes this time.

The incident began at 11:50am yesterday as the Mirage took off from the Hsinchu air base for a routine training flight, the air force general headquarters said.

Shortly after takeoff, the two pilots smelled a burning smell which they suspected might have been caused by bird strikes.

The pilots then asked to land according to standard operation procedures. Their next step was to dump the fuel.

The plane landed at the base at 11:57am but caught fire shortly afterwards. The fire was put out in five minutes by the base's fire squad.

The accident was the second of its kind to happen to the air force this year. In mid-September, a two-seat T-34 turboprop trainer crash-landed in a fruit farm in Taichung after sustaining at least three consecutive bird strikes in the air. No one was injured.

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