Mon, Nov 17, 2003 - Page 4 News List

Air force and AIDC feud over crashes

RESPONSIBILITY The air force blames the IDFs' manufacturer for skimping on testing; the AIDC says it did so on the orders of the air force

By Brian Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

The air force and the state-run Aerospace Industrial Development Corp. (AIDC), the developer of the Indigenous Defense Fighter (IDF), are now at odds over two consecutive IDF crashes this year, defense sources said yesterday.

The tension arose from differences between the two in the interpretation of possible causes for the two IDF crashes, which happened in April and September respectively. No pilots were killed in the two incidents. Both sides agreed that human error caused the crashes bit could not agree about their respective responsibilities over the incidents.

The air force, though having punished the pilots who caused the crashes, complained that the crashes could have been prevented if not for certain problems with the planes themselves.

A senior air force official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the two IDFs which have crashed this year were of the same type, a model with enhanced capabilities in certain areas.

"Planes of that type did not undergo enough tests before going into production. They were thus restricted from doing certain maneuvers that had not been tested during the development phase," the official said.

"Our pilots were certainly to be held responsible for the two crashes. But the source of the problem was the plane itself," he said.

The air force's interpretation of causes for the two IDF crashes, which has been exposed by an evening newspaper in recent weeks, angered the AIDC almost to the point of planning a face-to-face showdown with the air force, sources said.

An official with the AIDC, who is close to the company's leadership circle, said many company staff asked to call a press conference to let the truth be known to the public.

"It is not time yet to take such move. But we do consider it necessary for the public to know our side of the story," the official said.

"It is true that the two IDFs that have crashed this year were of the type that was not sufficiently tested during the development phase. But who made the decision [about the testing]? The air force did," he said.

"The air force decided to cancel most of the tests for this enhanced type of IDF because of the crash of a prototype of the aircraft during a test flight in 1991. A test pilot was killed in the accident," he said.

"The air force was then in a rush to get the IDF into operation. It could not stand any delay in the plane's going into service because of problems found during the test phase," he said.

Under the circumstances, the IDFs, especially those of the enhanced type, went into production prematurely.

A provisional corrective measure was thus launched to prevent against accidents due to untested capabilities of the plane. Pilots were advised of the untested maneuvers and recommended not to attempt them.

In the two crashes that happened in the past seven months, the pilots were doing exactly the kind of maneuver that had never been tested.

"Even so, the pilots could have tried to save their planes by applying the manual pitch override [MPO] function. The procedure is clearly described in the technical operation [TO] manual of the IDF. But it was sad to know that none of these pilots knew of the MPO. Did the IDF pilots ever work hard studying the TO manual?" the AIDC official said.

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