The military has not decided when its fleet of AH-64E Apache attack helicopters will return to operational status, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Andrew Hsia (夏立言) said yesterday.
The army grounded its Apaches after one crashed onto a building in Taoyuan County on Friday.
Army Chief-of-Staff Lieutenant General Hau Yi-chih (郝以知) told a meeting of the legislature’s Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee yesterday that the military has assembled a task force to investigate the accident and determine the cause of the crash.
A report will be available within 45 days, Hao said.
The aircraft, one of 18 attack helicopters delivered by the US between November last year and last month, was on a training flight when it crashed into a three-story building, damaging several homes.
The Army said the helicopter had climbed to an altitude of 106.6m and after entering a cloud bank, dropped suddenly to 61m and crashed.
Flight instructor Major Chen Lung-chien (陳龍謙), one of the helicopter’s two pilots, said that changes in humidity and temperature had fogged up the cockpit windshield, forcing him to try to climb above the cloud ceiling, but even the helicopter’s night-vision features proved useless.
With little visibility in the clouds, Chen said he tried as best he could to keep the helicopter horizontal.
It is a common occurrence for fog to affect windshields due to changes in temperatures and humidity and the scenario is included in the army’s simulated flight training, Hao said.
“The main focus of our investigation” is why the accident occurred in spite of this,” Hao said.
The helicopter’s black box has been retrieved.
Chen has logged a total of 1,247 flight hours, 350 in Apache helicopters, while Lieutenant Colonel Liu Ming-hui (劉銘輝) has a total of 1,034 flight hours, but none in an Apache.
Liu received some facial scratches in the crash, but Chen was unhurt.
Chen was trained on the Apache in the US and is a test flight instructor for the aircraft, the army said.