Two pilots killed in military plane crash in Vietnam: official

AFP, HANOI

Sat, Jun 15, 2019 - Page 6

Two pilots were yesterday killed in Vietnam after their military airplane crashed during a training session, an official told reporters.

Although Vietnam has a good civilian aviation record, airplane and helicopter crashes are regularly reported in the military, which relies on an arsenal of imported equipment — mostly from long-time ally Russia.

The two pilots died in central Khanh Hoa Province when their Russian two-seat Yakovlev Yak-52 trainer crashed near a mountain, killing one of them instantly.

“One was found dead while the other one died on the way to hospital,” said Nguyen Ngoc Khue, the head of the local commune where the accident occurred.

The crash site was blocked off for investigation, Khue added, and photographs in state media showed plumes of smoke billowing from the downed airplane.

The Yak-52 took its first flight in 1976 in Russia and was later manufactured in Romania by Aerostar. It was designed to train civilian sport pilots and military pilots in the former Soviet Union.

Yesterday’s crash followed several similar accidents in the communist country in the past few years.

In July last year, two pilots were killed when training in central Nghe An Province in a Russian-made Sukhoi Su-22 that belonged to Vietnamese People’s Air Force.

At least 14 people were reported killed in military crashes in 2016.

Vietnam is seeking to modernize its military by purchasing more equipment from partners beyond old Soviet ally Russia, including from France, Germany and Israel.

US President Donald Trump has also encouraged Hanoi to buy more US equipment to narrow a trade gap.

Observers have said that Vietnam is willing to do so, but could struggle to afford US military hardware.