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Search still on for missing military aircraft, pilots

Search still on for missing military aircraft, pilots

Taipei, Sept. 25 (CNA) The Ministry of National Defense said Friday that rescuers had still not located an AT-3 Air Force Academy training aircraft and its two pilots after the plane lost contact with air traffic controllers three days ago during a routine training flight. The ministry said that day that since the incident, it has deployed more than 850 servicemen in the search for the pilots and the aircraft, which was last seen on radar screens in the skies over central Taiwan early Tuesday afternoon. The ministry has also dispatched several helicopters as part of the search effort. Earlier Friday, a team of rescuers and the rescue helicopters stepped up the search in six areas, but no signs of the twin-engine jet or its crew were found, the ministry said in a statement. Aircraft being used in the search include S-70C rescue helicopters, EC 225 helicopters, one CH-47 helicopter, an E-2K early warning aircraft and an RF-5 reconnaissance aircraft, the ministry said. The military will continue the search and rescue mission and "will not give up hope," the ministry said. The mission is being complicated by the densely forested, mountainous terrain in Nantou County (???), where the plane is believed to have probably gone down. The AT-3, which had been in service for about 27 years, took off from an air force base in the southern city of Kaohsiung at around 11:55 a.m. Tuesday and lost contact with air traffic controllers 30 minutes later, the Air Force 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 has clocked 1,489 flight hours, is a flight instructor at the academy, it said. It was not clear who was at the controls at the time of the incident, due to the limited data currently available, the Air Force 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. There were also no abnormalities in the aircraft's flight record over the past three months, he said. The cause of the plane's disappearance is pending further investigation, he added. 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 Kaohsiung's Zihguan District. (By Elaine Hou)


Updated : 2021-09-20 05:25 GMT+08:00