Taiwanese air force safety questioned

A GROUP OF Taiwanese politicians demanded tightening-up of aviation safety measures on May 9 following the deaths of at least 38 aircrew in military aircraft crashes over the past four years. Since 1990 at least 26 air force aircraft, including fighter, trainer and reconnaissance types, have been lost in accidents. The figure covers only major accidents to air force aircraft and does not include any army or navy incidents.

According to statistics provided by the air force, Chen Shui-bian of the Democratic Progressive Party stated that 60% of the crashes were due to pilot error, 28% due to mechanical faults and 8% due to inclement weather. In 1990 there were a total of 11 crashes, although this high attrition rate has now been reduced with only one in 1993 and one so far this year. Despite this, Chen demanded that the air force’s ageing F-104 Starfighters, which have been in service since 1960, and the F-5E Tigers were grounded — since 1990 eight F-104s and five F-5Es have crashed.

Air force Inspector General Wang Han-ning replied to parliament that the number of accidents per 10,000 flying hours had now dropped to a record low of only 1.36% from an average of 6.38% in the last five years. He did, however, comment that there were not enough aircraft to train air force pilots and there are plans to lease T-38As from the US to overcome this problem.

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