Taiwanese pilot dies after ejecting from jet trainer

The air force chief announced that all F-5Es are now grounded, and training flights cancelled pending an investigation.

The F-5E is an older generation fighter with a design that dates back to the 1960s [File: Tyrone Siu/Reuters]

A Taiwanese air force pilot died during a routine training mission after ejecting from a malfunctioning F-5E jet, in the second fatal air crash in three months.

The accident took place on Thursday morning after pilot Chu Kuang-meng reported an engine malfunction shortly after the takeoff, according to the Ministry of National Defense (MND), Taiwan’s Military News Agency reported.

The 29-year-old was rescued from the seas off Taiwan’s southeastern coast by a navy helicopter and brought to the Mackay Memorial Hospital where he died, the news agency reported air force Major General Huang Chih-wei as saying.

President Tsai Ing-wen expressed “deep regret” over the loss and called on the MND to carry out a thorough investigation into the reasons for the accident, the state-owned Central News Agency reported.

The air force chief announced that all F-5Es had been grounded and an investigation launched.

The crash comes as Chinese fighter jets and bombers have entered Taiwan’s air defence zone with increasing frequency in recent months, while propaganda films have shown simulated attacks on Taiwan-like territories.

The island says it has scrambled its fighters at double the rate of last year in an effort to warn off Chinese jets.

Analysts say China’s increased buzzing of Taiwan is a way to test the island’s defence responses and to wear out its fighters.

The F-5E is an older generation fighter with a design that dates back to the 1960s.

In July, two crew members were killed in a helicopter crash as Taiwan’s military held drills across the island, including one simulating coastal assaults from China.

Taiwan has lived with the threat of invasion by China since the two sides split in 1949 after a civil war.

Beijing has ramped up diplomatic and military pressure on Taiwan, officially known as the Republic of China, since the 2016 election of President Tsai, who views the island as a de facto sovereign nation and not part of the “One China” policy.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies