Search continues for missing fighter pilot in eastern Taiwan

TAIPEI (The China Post) – Minister of National Defense Yen De-fa (嚴德發) is expected in Hualien on Wednesday to supervise the search and rescue operation to recover the pilot of the F-16A fighter jet that went missing over waters off eastern Taiwan a day earlier.

Minister Yen and ROC Navy Commander Huang Shu-kuang (黃曙光) first joined the Joint Air Operations Center (JAOC) on Tuesday night after the missing fighter jet reportedly disappeared from radar at 6:07 p.m., 2 minutes after taking off from Hualien Air Base.

Chinese-language media reported that the air and sea assets from the military and coast guard joined forces to search for the pilot, Colonel Chiang Cheng-chih (蔣正志), 44.

Colonel Chiang Cheng-chih and his F-16A fighter jet went missing over waters off eastern Taiwan Tuesday. (Courtesy of Ministry of National Defense)

According to MND data, the accumulated flying time of the F-16 was 2,861 hours. The latest regular maintenance work of of plane number 6672 was performed from Aug. 23 to Sept. 19, after 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.