Thursday, October 4, 2012

French Mirage crash kills Taiwanese exchange pilot

Mirage 2000-5F of EC 01.002. Photo © Tom Houquet/Koksijde Spotting Group

The Republic of China Air Force (RoCAF) has confirmed a Taiwanese exchange pilot died in a crash of a French Armee de l'Air Mirage 2000-5F fighter during a training flight in eastern France Wednesday. The pilot, identified as 37-year-old Lieutenant-Colonel Wang Tung-yi (王同義) was on a training exchange program at Luxeuil/St.Sauveur airbase.

According to a Radio France Internationale report, local witnesses said they saw a "ball of fire" crash into a wooded area about 500 meters from a group of houses, while Froideconche Mayor Henri Passard said that based on information he had received, Lieutenant-Colonel Wang did everything in his power to avoid crashing into houses and subsequently ejected too late to save himself. The French newspaper Le Pays has pinpointed the crash site (see map below) as just north of the nearby town of Luxeuil-les-Bains.

Map of reported crash site. Note location of town and airbase

The Armee de l'Air has been reported to have announced at a news conference that the Mirage crashed two minutes after taking off at approximately 1005 hrs local and was loaded with 240 20mm shells and 7000 liters of fuel, flying as number 4 of a 4-ship patrol which was part of the "operational alert" force (Ed: QRA?)

Luxeuil/St.Sauveur (BA116) is the home of the Mirage 2000-5s of EC 01.002 Cigognes, one of the most famous units of the Armee de l'Air. The RoCAF operates 56 (from an original order of 60) Mirage 2000-5Di and -5Ei with the three squadrons based at Hsinchu, in the northeastern part of the island of Taiwan.

UPDATE: The RoCAF has grounded it's fleet of Mirages pending the outcome of the crash investigation. It has also been revealed the Lt-Col Wang was two months away from completing his two-year exchange stint in France. Sources indicate that the crashed Mirage was serialled 116-ER (n°68).

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