A pilot of Taiwanâs air force died on Thursday after he ejected from a malfunctioning F-5E fighter jet during a routine training session. Following the incident, Taiwan's air force has temporarily suspended operation of all its F-5 fighter jets.
The deceased pilot, Chu Kuang-meng, 29, reported a malfunction in the engine of the F-5E less than two minutes after take-off from north of Chihhang airbase in eastern Taiwan on Thursday morning. He was rescued from the sea by a navy helicopter and was taken to the MacKay Memorial Hospital, where he later succumbed to his injuries.
According to media reports, Taiwanâs President Tsai Ing-wen has expressed regret over the pilotâs death and directed a thorough investigation to ascertain the reasons for the accident.
At a press conference, Taiwanâs air force chief of staff Huang Chih-wei said the ill-fated F-5E was one of two F-5Es that were engaged in basic combat and defence training at that time.
Huang explained that successful ejection from an aircraft depends on many factors such as the posture of the pilot when he falls and speed of the aircraft.
Local media reported that a team has gone to the air force base to investigate the incident, and pending inspections and investigations all F-5s are grounded.
Taiwan has been co-manufacturing the F-5s with US-based Northrop Corporation since 1973, but over the years after the introduction of more advanced fighter jets they were either withdrawn from service or they became second-line fighters. Last year, regular maintenance was carried out on these aircraft.
At least nine pilots have been killed in accidents involving F-5s since 2006, according to a Central News Agency report.
Earlier this month, Taiwan revealed that it has spent an estimated $900m in 2020 scrambling its air force against Chinese incursions.Â