Tue, Feb 26, 2019 - Page 3 News List

Ejector seat a must on training jets: legislators

TRAPPED:Over the 33 years the air force has operated Beech T-34C Turbo Mentor and AIDC AT-3 Tzu Chung planes, it has lost nine planes, as well as 10 pilots, lawmakers said

By Aaron Tu and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

A pilot stands next to a US-bought Beech T-34C Turbo Mentor propeller training aircraft in an undated photograph.

Photo courtesy of the Ministry of Defense

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators called on the Ministry of National Defense to ensure that 66 training jets being built by Aerospace Industrial Development Corp (AIDC) would have ejector seats.

A prototype of the trainer jet is expected to be ready in September, according to an Executive Yuan policy report released on Jan 31.

DPP legislators Ho Hsin-chun (何欣純), Lo Chih-cheng (羅致政) and Tsai Shih-ying (蔡適應) said that US-bought Beech T-34C Turbo Mentor propeller planes and AIDC AT-3 Tzu Chung trainer jets have been in service for 33 years, during which Taiwan has lost nine T-34Cs and 10 pilots.

The T-34Cs had so many losses because they did not have ejector seats, the lawmakers said, adding that the ministry should look into purchasing new trainer jets outfitted with ejector seats to save money when they go through mid-life upgrades after 10 years, as AIDC’s Indigenous Defense Fighters, did from 2014 to 2017.

The training regimen for pilots includes three stages that use different aircraft, a source said.

T-34Cs are used in the first stage, AT-3s in the second and Northrop-Grumman F-5s in the final stage, the source said.

All combat pilots have passed the three-stage training regimen, they said.

Locally produced advanced jet trainers are expected to replace the AT-3s and F-5s before 2028, with pilot training programs expected to use two aircraft instead of three after that, they said.

The military is looking forward to building trainer and next-generation jets under the indigenous jet building program, the source added.

While the military has research and development, and mass-production of advanced jet trainer aircraft as its primary focus, more capacity would be turned to researching trainer jets, the source said.

However, there is as yet no conclusive funding estimate or timetable for such endeavors, they said.

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