A 25-year-old Northrop F-5F Tiger training jet made a crash-landing yesterday morning at Taitung Air Force Base after its landing gear became jammed. Two pilots involved in the crash escaped without injury.
The air force said in a press release that the F-5F two-seat training craft, serial number 5384, took off from Taitung Air Force Base at 7:50am yesterday for a routine training mission.
As the plane finished its one-hour training mission and prepared to return to base at 8:50am, the two pilots on the plane found they were unable to lower the front and rear landing gears.
The air force said that at 9:05 am, after the plane had circled around the base for 15 minutes and consumed most of its fuel, the pilots made a forced landing, easing the plane to the ground on its belly.
Air force crash-and-rescue crews sprayed foam on the surface of the runway before the pilots attempted the risky maneuver. Fire engines were stationed around the runway.
According to the air force, the jet created a shower of sparks as the body of the aircraft crashed into the runway, but suffered relatively minor damage given the severity of the situation.
The two pilots swiftly fled from the scene without injuries, added the air force.
The body of the plane suffered some damage, according to the statement.
The training plane was piloted by a first lieutenant, and his co-pilot -- a major who is a squadron commander -- sat behind the young pilot to instruct him in combat tactics.
The air force said that as the mechanical problem became apparent, the major took control of the plane.
Seven other F-5 series trainers and fighters on practice missions at the time of the mishap were asked to land at the base, before the forced landing was attempted.
The air force announced it would suspend all flights by F-5 series trainers and fighters until it has finished a complete safety evaluation.
There have been several incidents involving the aging F-5 series planes in recent years.
On June 17, an F-5F training jet crashed into a farmer's field in Chiayi County, killing the pilot and leaving his co-pilot critically injured.
On Jan. 27 last year, an F-5F's fuel tank exploded while the aircraft was taking off from Taitung Air Force Base.
The two pilots were able to escape from the aircraft.
The F-5F fighter plane had previously been used as a reconnaissance aircraft, but was recently converted into a training plane.
Taiwan has been using aircraft belonging to the F-5 series for the past 32 years, during which time it has lost 32 pilots in accidents involving the planes.
Taiwan's 308 F-5 series fighters were built domestically under authorization from and with the help of Northrop between 1974 and 1986.