Two air force pilots earlier this month escaped injuries when an Indigenous Defense Fighter (IDF) aircraft at the Tainan Air Base sustained damage when a cockpit canopy was accidentally blasted off.
Ministry of National Defense officials on Thursday confirmed that the incident took place on Nov. 2, when two pilots from the 443rd Tactical Fighter Wing squadron were conducting pre-flight checks for an IDF jet fighter training mission.
It was reported that the mission’s co-pilot, surnamed Chen (陳), had violated safety procedures by pulling out an insertion pin which was part of the cockpit’s canopy ejection mechanism.
According to the ministry’s report, Chen accidentally pressed an ejection button after pulling out the insertion pin, triggering a detonation which blasted off the cockpit’s canopy.
The system is designed to rescue pilots by ejecting the cockpit seats and canopy in a mid-flight emergency.
The Taiwan-made two-seater IDF jet features a two-piece, port-hinged canopy made of transparent acrylics and “Mark 12” ejection seats by British manufacturer Martin Baker Aircraft Co.
According to an eyewitness, a loud explosion was heard as the canopy blew open and scattered on the runway, as aircraft maintenance crews hit the ground to take cover from the blast.
The pilots and maintenance crews were not hit by the blast, and no other injuries were reported, an air force official said.
It is estimated that the aircraft would be grounded for about 12 months as a replacement canopy — which is expected to cost NT$3 million (US$91,570) — is manufactured.
After the accident, all training exercises at the 443rd Tactical Fighter Wing squadron were canceled, while the co-pilot in question has been suspended pending an investigation on the incident, the ministry said.
According to IDF safety procedures, only the head of the maintenance crew can pull out an insertion pin after they have completed a complete safety check.
One-hundred-and-thirty IDF aircraft were built by Taiwan’s Aerospace Industrial Development Corp and entered air force service between 1994 and 1999.
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