Jet fighters likely to be up in air by next week: official

StaffwWriter, with CNA

Sun, Oct 07, 2012 - Page 3

An air force official said yesterday that a suspension of the country’s Mirage jet fighters after a fatal crash in France is likely to be lifted next week at the earliest.

Taiwan grounded its fleet of Mirage fighters following a crash in France on Wednesday, in which a Taiwanese pilot died while undergoing training on the warplanes.

The director of Air Force Command’s Department of Political Warfare, Lieutenant General Wu Wan-chiao (吳萬教), said the French authorities have been decoding the black box of the crashed aircraft and will have the initial results of their investigation in the next few days.

The air force will then conduct an examination of its Mirage jet fighters in accordance with the investigation’s findings and will likely resume Mirage operations next week, he said.

The air force grounded all of Taiwan’s Mirage jet fighters on Thursday after Lieutenant Colonel Wang Tung-yi (王同義), 37, died during training operations at the Luxeuil-les-Bains airfield in France the previous day. The air force has also sent a team to France to help investigate the crash.

Wang’s Mirage 2000-5 lost contact shortly after take-off in the French airfield and crashed into a wooded area about 500m from a group of houses.

Taiwan bought 60 Mirage 2000-5 planes in 1992 from French firm Dassault Aviation.

Under the terms of the arms deal, Taiwan sends a pilot to France biennially on a two-year training program and France is responsible for any unintended accidents that occur during training operations, Wu said.

The French air force has said Wang was an experienced pilot who had logged 1,300 hours of flying time. Wang arrived in France in 2010 and was set to finish the program in November, Air Force officials said.