Five military personnel impeached over negligence in F-16 crash

02/19/2020 08:21 PM
Control Yuan members announce its impeachment against five military personnel at a press conference Feb. 19
Control Yuan members announce its impeachment against five military personnel at a press conference Feb. 19

Taipei, Feb. 19 (CNA) The Control Yuan announced Wednesday that it impeached five military personnel earlier this month for negligence that resulted in an F-16 fighter crash during a 2018 drill that killed its pilot.

The Control Yuan said it passed a motion on Feb. 4 to impeach Shih Ching-nien (史青年), Lai Wen-sheng (賴文生), Lu I-shun (盧易舜), Chuang Chun-yuan (莊春源) and Ou Chien-fei (區劍飛) after its investigation into the crash that killed Major Wu Yen-ting (吳彥霆) showed that the five military officers were chiefly responsible for the incident.

According to the investigation report, before the crash, Wu had twice asked the Air Force Air Operations Center whether he could climb higher since he was having difficulty getting a clear visual due to heavy clouds.

However, the five officers made a wrong judgment call due to lack of preparedness and/or sloppiness, which ultimately led to the F-16 being unable to climb above 2,000 feet before it crashed into Wufen Mountain in New Taipei's Rueifang District, the report said.

Shih, Lai and Lu were responsible for charting the wrong flight route for Wu's jet, which led to it flying into the mountains.

Chuang was tasked with serving as a liaison officer to coordinate with civilian air controllers during the drill. However, he completely forgot about the mission and did not correct the wrong flight route in time.

Ou, meanwhile, was responsible for training related personnel at Air Operations Center, yet he did not properly supervise the mission and did not follow standard procedure that requires double checking of the flight route, which ultimately led to the tragedy, the report said.

Control Yuan member Bau Tzong-ho (包宗和) said the findings show that the crash was "clearly the result of human error" on the part of the five officers.

They will now be handed over to the Judicial Yuan's Public Functionary Disciplinary Sanction Commission for a decision on what punishment should be imposed on them, he added.

Bau, meanwhile, said the Control Yuan is also probing the responsibilities of civilian air traffic controllers in the crash and will ask the Civil Aeronautics Administration to levy punishments on relevant personnel after the investigative report is released.

Another Control Yuan member, Chang Kuei-mei (仉桂美), said civilian air traffic controllers are partly responsible for the tragedy, since the drill involved close coordination between civilian and Air Force air traffic controllers.

In response, the Air Force said it fully respects the impeachment decision and has already taken measures to beef up its air traffic control capability to prevent a similar tragedy from happening again.

The crash occurred on June 4, 2018 when Wu's single-seat F-16 disappeared from radar screens at 1:43 p.m., nearly half an hour after it took off from Hualien Air Base to participate in the annual Han Kuang military exercises.

Wreckage of the fighter jet and parts of Wu's body were later found on Wufen Mountain.

The 31-year-old pilot is survived by his wife, who also serves in the Air Force, and a son.

The Air Force had previously attributed the cause of the tragedy to "a combination of factors, including poor weather conditions and human error," based on its initial findings. It did not, however, release its final investigative results, citing the need for confidentiality.

(By Ku Chuan, Matt Yu and Joseph Yeh)

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