Funeral held for hero AT-3 pilot Chuang Pei-yuan


TAIPEI–Seven jets from the Air Force’s Thunder Tiger Aerobatics Team flew over the funeral of Chuang Pei-yuan Saturday to pay tribute to the late AT-3 jet trainer pilot, who died in a crash in October after he tried to maneuver his aircraft clear of residential communities to avoid endangering the lives of others following a mid-air collision with another aircraft.

Chuang’s funeral was held at the Air Force Academy in Kaohsiung, and was attended by President Ma Ying-jeou, who presented a presidential citation to the pilot’s father in recognition of the fallen pilot’s contribution.

Defense Minister Yen Ming was also present at the funeral, and granted a military medal and a certificate to Chuang’s family in honor of the deceased, who was a member of the aerobatics team.

Yen also posthumously promoted the 37-year-old to a colonel from a lieutenant colonel.

The funeral was concluded with a ��missing man formation�� by AT-3 trainers over the sky in memory of Chuang. During the maneuver, one of the jets pulled out of the formation, symbolizing Chuang’s death, the Air Force said.

Many of Chuang’s colleagues and teachers also attended the funeral, and expressed sadness over his death.

Wang Hsiang-lin, one of Chuang’s colleagues, said he had often discussed flying matters with Chuang. Chuang was convinced that when a pilot faces a critical situation, he must steer the aircraft clear of crowded areas, according to Wang, who added Chuang lived up to his conviction and served as a role model for others.

Following the funeral, Chuang’s ashes will be carried to a military graveyard in the central county of Changhua and will be buried there, the Air Force said.

The National Geographic Channel also made a special video recently to pay tribute to Chuang, who was one of the interviewees featured in the channel’s upcoming program on the Thunder Tiger Aerobatics Team.

In the video, a female pilot cited an elderly farmer who was working in a field as saying that he and his brothers were scared to see Chuang’s incoming aircraft but suddenly the plane turned around and crashed.

��It was you who saved their lives, Instructor (Chuang),�� she said.

Chuang’s aircraft collided with another AT-3 trainer flown by Lt. Col. Yang Chih-ping during a routine aerobatic training mission on Oct. 21.

After Chuang’s AT-3 trainer was disabled and was sure to crash, the control tower urged him to eject from the plane, but he chose instead to steer his aircraft clear of residential communities to avoid endangering the lives of others, the Air Force said.

Chuang’s plane then crashed in a field in Zihguan District in Kaohsiung, the Air Force said.