Pilot of missing F-16 likely suffered spatial disorientation: Air Force
Taipei, Nov. 18 (CNA) The disappearance of an F-16 fighter from radar screens Tuesday night was mostly likely the result of spatial disorientation on the part of the pilot, Air Force Commander Hsiung Hou-chi (熊厚基) said Wednesday.
Citing an initial investigation, Hsiung said at a press briefing that data showed the single-seat F-16 jet, piloted by Colonel Chiang Cheng-chih (蔣正志), dropping 7,000 feet in 20 seconds, about 1 minute after it took off from Hualien Air Base at 6:05 p.m. Tuesday.
The 7,000-foot drop may have occurred because the pilot suffered spatial disorientation after entering the cloud layer, and he lost his sense of direction, Hsiung said.
In aviation, spatial disorientation is defined as the inability of a pilot to correctly interpret aircraft attitude, altitude or airspeed in relation to the Earth or other points of reference.
The Air Force's initial investigation has ruled out mechanical failure as the cause of the plane's disappearance, according to Hsiung.
The fact that the jet was able to climb to 7,000 feet in 60 second after takeoff meant there was no problem with the aircraft itself, he said, adding that all the maintenance records showed the jet was in good shape.
All systems were functioning normally before the F-16, tail number 6672, disappeared from radar screens at 6:07 p.m., nine nautical miles northeast of Hualien Air Base, Hsiung said.
Since then, the Air Force has decided to ground all of its F-16 fighter jets, pending safety inspections and while the search for the fighter jet and its pilot is ongoing.
Hsiung said a naval vessel had detected a signal that may have been from the missing plane at around 9 a.m. Wednesday, and 16 aircraft and 24 boats had been dispatched to search in the location where the signal was detected.
The pilot of the missing jet, a 44-year-old commander of the 5th Tactical Fighter Wing, has an accumulated flying time of 2,230 hours, according to the Air Force.
(By Chen Yun-yu, Chen Chun-hua and Joseph Yeh) Endtiem/pc
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