Pilots honor late colleague with funeral flyover tribute

MOVING::Air force pilot Chuang Pei-yuan, who died last month in an air crash, was given military honors at his funeral by the president and the defense minister

Staff writer, with CNA

Sun, Nov 09, 2014 - Page 3

Seven jets from the Republic of China (ROC) Air Force’s Thunder Tiger Aerobatics Team yesterday flew over the funeral of Chuang Pei-yuan (莊倍源) to pay tribute to the late AT-3 jet trainer pilot, who died in a crash last month following a mid-air collision with another aircraft.

Chuang had maneuvered his aircraft clear of residential communities to avoid endangering lives on the ground, at the cost of his own life, officials said.

The funeral was held at the Air Force Academy in Greater Kaohsiung, and was attended by President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), who presented a presidential citation to Chuang’s father in recognition of the fallen pilot’s contribution.

Minister of National Defense Yen Ming (嚴明) was also at the funeral and granted a military medal and a certificate to Chuang’s family. Yen also posthumously promoted the 37-year-old to colonel from lieutenant colonel.

The funeral concluded with a “missing man” formation by AT-3 trainers over the sky in memory of Chuang. During the maneuver, one of the jets pulled out of the formation, symbolizing Chuang’s death, the air force said.

Many of Chuang’s colleagues and teachers also attended the funeral and expressed sadness over his death.

Colleague Wang Hsiang-lin (王祥麟) said he had often discussed flying matters with Chuang. Chuang was convinced that when a pilot faces a critical situation, he must steer the aircraft clear of crowded areas, Wang said, adding that Chuang lived up to his conviction and served as a role model for others.

Chuang’s ashes would be buried in a military graveyard in Changhua County, the air force said.

The National Geographic Channel also made a special video recently to pay tribute to Chuang, who was one of the interviewees featured in the channel’s upcoming program on the aerobatics team.

Chuang’s aircraft hit another AT-3 trainer flown by Lieutenant Colonel Yang Chih-ping (楊志平) during a routine aerobatic training mission on Oct. 21.

Following the collision, the control tower urged Chuang to eject from the plane, but he chose instead to steer his aircraft clear of residential communities to avoid endangering the lives of others, the air force said.

Yang’s plane was not badly damaged and landed safely at the Air Force Academy.

An air force task force has been looking into the cause of the crash, while Greater Kaohsiung prosecutors have also been conducting an investigation.