Search-and-rescue teams yesterday searched for an air force pilot after his F-16V Block 20 jet went missing during an afternoon bombing exercise near the coastline of Chiayi County’s Dongshih Township (東石鄉), the air force said.
The search continued as of press time last evening.
The single-seat jet (serial number 6650) disappeared from radar screens at 3:23pm, about 30 minutes after it took off from Chiayi Air Base, air force Inspector General Major General Liu Hui-chien (柳惠千) told a news conference in Taipei.
All F-16Vs are temporarily suspended from exercises pending the completion of emergency checks on the fleet, he said.
The fighter piloted by air force Captain Chen Yi (陳奕) was taking part in an exercise over the Shueisi Bombing Range near the Aogu Wetland (鰲鼓) when it vanished, Liu said, adding that its last known location was 100m north of a floating target on the range.
Investigators had not ruled out weather conditions, maintenance failure or pilot error as the cause of the apparent crash, he said.
Visibility and cloud conditions were within safety parameters appropriate to the exercise, he said.
The missing fighter jet, which rolled off the assembly line on July 24, 1998, had accrued 3,415 flying hours and its most recent inspection was conducted on Dec. 28 last year, Liu said.
The aircraft’s landing gear had been slightly damaged after being accidentally retracted by human error, but records showed that the damage had been repaired prior to yesterday’s incident, he said.
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