F-16 disappears from radar at altitude of 6,000 feet: Air Force
Update: Nov. 18-F-16s grounded as search continues for missing plane, pilot
Hualien, Nov. 17 (CNA) An F-16 fighter jet which went missing over waters off eastern Taiwan Tuesday night disappeared from radar screens at an altitude of more than 6,000 feet, a Taiwanese Air Force official said during a press conference.
As of press time, air and sea assets from the military and coast guard were continuing their search for the pilot, Colonel Chiang Cheng-chih (蔣正志), according to Hsieh Jih-Sheng (謝日升), commander of the 5th Tactical Fighter Wing of Taiwan's Air Force.
Chiang, 44, has an accumulated flying time of 2,230 hours, according to a report from the Ministry of National Defense (MND).
The missing fighter jet, with the tail number 6672, disappeared from radar at 6:07 p.m., 2 minutes after taking off from Hualien Air Base while performing a night training exercise, Hsieh confirmed during the press conference.
When the incident occurred, cloud cover was thin at 2,000 feet but thicker from 4,000-7,000 feet, he said.
Night training is part of scheduled drills and not an added element, Hsieh stressed, calling on the public to pray for Chiang's safety.
According to MND data, the accumulated flying time of the F-16 was 2,861 hours. Its latest regular maintenance work was performed from Aug. 23-Sept. 19, since when it had flown about 52 hours in 52 missions.
There have been seven major accidents involving F-16s in Taiwan since 1997, when the first two of the 150 F-16s procured from the U.S. five years earlier were delivered.
The seven incidents happened in 1998, 1999, 2008, 2013 and 2018, killing two pilots and injuring one, with the other five missing presumed dead.
In addition, a Taiwanese pilot died in a F-16 crash during a training mission near Luke Air Force Base in the American state of Arizona on Jan. 22, 2016.
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