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Nothing abnormal before AT-3 trainer lost contact: Air Force Academy

Nothing abnormal before AT-3 trainer lost contact: Air Force Academy

Taipei, Sept. 22 (CNA) There were no signs of anything out of the ordinary before an AT-3 Air Force Academy training aircraft lost contact with air flight controllers early Tuesday afternoon during a routine training flight, an academy official said. The pilots did not issue any abnormal calls and nothing seemed wrong with the plane before it lost contact, said Maj. Gen. Huang Chih-wei (???), deputy head of the academy, at a news briefing on Tuesday afternoon. There were also no abnormalities in the aircraft's flight record over the past three months, he said. The last conversation the controllers had with the aircraft was to ask it not to fly outside the training airspace, Huang said. "The military is making every effort to search for the missing pilots," he said. All training with AT-3 aircraft has been suspended following the incident, Huang said, adding that the cause of the plane's disappearance is pending further investigation. According to the military's initial information, the twin-engine jet took off from an Air Force base in the southern city of Kaohsiung at around 11:55 a.m. and lost contact with air traffic controllers 30 minutes later, the Air Force said. The plane disappeared off the radar screen in the skies over Nantou County in central Taiwan, the Ministry of National Defense said, but it needed more information to identify the plane's specific location when it disappeared from radar screens. At the time of the incident, there were a total of 10 AT-3 trainers conducting routine flight training in the sky, and the nine other planes returned safely to their bases, Huang said. Maj. Wang Ching-chun (???), 32, was in the front seat of the plane, and 1st. Lt. Huang Chun-jung (???), a 23-year-old with 116 flight hours, was in the back seat during the routine training flight, according to the Air Force. Wang, who had clocked 1,489 flight hours, is a flight instructor at the academy, Huang Chih-wei said. As part of the military's search effort, the Air Force has deployed an EC225 rescue helicopter to search for the missing pilots and the aircraft, the ministry said. The last deadly accident involving an AT-3 occurred last October, when Col. Chuang Pei-yuan (???) was killed after his aircraft collided with another AT-3 trainer during a routine aerobatic training mission and crashed in a field in Zihguan District in Kaohsiung. (By Wang Shu-fen and Elaine Hou)