[EDITORIALS]When old planes crashTwo Air Force jet fighters that were training over the Yellow Sea and the South Sea crashed within eight minutes of each other Wednesday. These were the 11th and 12th such incidents since 2000, seven of which have involved F-4 or F-5 fighters. The two that crashed this time were an F-4E jet and an F-5F.
One could argue that this was a normal incident, since there are hundreds of jet fighters of the same model and several reasons why they might crash. But the fact that planes of the same model are falling out of the sky demonstrates that there is a problem. We have to examine whether the military inspected the past accidents thoroughly enough, and whether there was insufficient maintenance. We wonder whether the accidents might have been prevented if more attention had been paid in certain areas. Whenever such an accident occurs, the Air Force offers plenty of reasons for why it was unavoidable.
The Air Force says that even when maintenance is perfect and the pilot is an excellent one, handling a jet fighter involves risks that make it hard to avoid an accident. Even so, how can the Air Force earn the trust of the people when two or more such accidents are happening every year? Have they thought about the lives of these young pilots, and the grief of their families?
The Air Force has suspended all training flights in response to the crashes. Whether malfunctions in the planes or inexperience on the part of the pilots are to blame, the authorities have to find out the real cause, with their eyes open to all possibilities. With no time limit imposed on the investigation, the authorities have to get to the bottom of these incidents, so that similar accidents can be prevented in the future.
The F-4E was manufactured 35 years ago; the F-5F is about 22 years old. South Korea is the only country that still uses the F-4. Upon seeing an F-4D, one Japanese official with the Japan Air Self-Defense Force said that the maintenance capacities of the South Korean Air Force were amazing. This is bitter praise. With planes so old being used in training, there will always be risk involved.
Therefore, there is an urgent need for new jet fighters to be introduced. Budget limitations are a problem, but we can’t just keep complaining about this. The top echelon of the Air Force needs to devise a measure for ensuring flight safety.