Crashed F-16 black box found: searchers (update)

2018/06/05 21:16:15 fontsize-small fontsize-default fontsize-big
Crashed F-16 black box found: searchers (update)

Taipei, June 5 (CNA) Searchers have found the flight data recorder of the F-16 fighter jet that crashed on Monday, a finding believed to be crucial to determining the cause of the tragedy that led to the death of the plane's young pilot.

Commonly called the black box, the flight data recorder of the single-seat military aircraft was found Tuesday afternoon in a valley about 120 meters below the crash site on Wufen Mountain (五分山) in New Taipei's Rueifang District, a New Taipei Fire Department spokesman said at a press briefing.

The searchers then brought the flight data recorder, which is actually an orange color, to military representatives on the scene.

Its serial number was intact, allowing the military to confirm that it belonged to the missing F-16. The box has been taken back to the Air Force for further analysis.

An Air Force official, however, told CNA Tuesday evening that the searchers had in fact only found the locator beacon of the black box and had yet to locate the memory board of the black box on which the flight data is stored.

The search was set to continue Wednesday for the missing memory board, which is key to probing the cause of the incident, the source told CNA.

Searchers on Tuesday also found more body parts of the F-16's pilot, Major Wu Yen-ting (吳彥霆), and more wreckage of the aircraft near the crash site.

Wu's single-seat F-16 fighter plane disappeared from radar screens at 1:43 p.m. Monday, nearly half an hour after it took off from Hualien Air Base to participate in the annual Han Kuang military drill.

The military later believed the plane crashed in mountains north of Taipei after a hiker called police at around 3:30 p.m. Monday to report finding possible wreckage of the fighter jet.

According to its initial findings, the Air Force on Monday night attributed the cause of the tragedy to "a combination of factors, including poor weather conditions and human error," but it did not comment further on this on Tuesday.

In the meantime, the Air Force has temporarily grounded all of its F-16s until further notice.

It was not the ill-fated pilot's first F-16 crash. He was also involved in an F-16 incident in 2013, when he parachuted to safety following a mechanical failure, an Air Force official told CNA on Monday.

The incident happened in May 2013 when his single-seat F-16 crashed in waters off southwestern Chiayi County during a training mission. He ejected to safety before the crash and boarded a life boat with no injuries.

Recalling the incident, then Air Force Commander General Liu Chen-wu (劉震武) told CNA that he was extremely impressed by Wu's poise during and after the accident.

He remained composed during the follow-up investigation into the crash despite having just narrowly escaped death, according to Liu.

An Air Force official who spoke on condition of anonymity told CNA that investigators said Wu had done everything by the book during the 2013 crash, enabling him to survive.

The crash did not scare Wu away from flying fighter jets as he later returned to the cockpit soon after being cleared to do so, the official said.

Wu, who graduated from the Air Force Academy in 2009, had 1,039 hours of flying experience, including 736 hours flying the F-16, according to the Air Force.

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

(By Yu Kai-hsiang and Joseph Yeh)

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