Taiwan military aerobatic jet crashes during routine training, pilot killed

TAIPEI (AFP) - A senior Taiwanese air force pilot was killed Tuesday after his jet hit another during a training session for the military aerobatic squad.

The accident happened while three locally-made AT-3 trainers from the elite "Thunder Tigers Squadron" were following a routine training programme, the air force said in a statement.

The jet flown by Wing Commander Chuang Pei-yuan scraped another one piloted by Wing Commander Chang Yen-ting, only 21 minutes after they took off from the air force academy base in the southern city of Kaohsiung, it said.

Chuang parachuted before his plane plunged into farmland. The 37-year-old was rushed to hospital but was pronounced dead later.

The second jet landed safely.

"We feel very sorry that we have lost an excellent pilot... he died for the country," air force Lieutenant-General Wang Hsuan-chou told reporters.

The air force said it has set up a task force to investigate the cause of the accident. Both pilots had more than 2,500 flight hours.

The crash sparked concern about the safety of the trainer plane developed in 1980. The first batch joined the air force in 1984.