F-5F crash not caused by mechanical problems

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F-5F crash not caused by mechanical problems

The Air Force said yesterday the crash of an F-5F jet in the East Sea on June 18, which killed two pilots, was caused not by a technical defect with the aircraft but by fog.

But they admitted the pilots would have survived if the parachutes had deployed.

Wrapping up an investigation, the Air Force said no malfunction was detected with the craft's fuselage, engine, control system, altimeter or surface position indicator.

The accident followed crashes of two fighter jets in March.

“The accident happened as the pilots tried a landing with limited visibility caused by the influx of sea fog into the area on their way back to base," said the Air Force in a statement. The Air Force, however, admitted a better escape system in the F-5F could have saved the pilots.

Its investigation showed that the pilots, Col. Park Jeong-wu, 49, and Capt. Jeong Seong-ung, 28, tried to escape with ejection seats at an altitude of 150 to 200 meters (492 to 656 feet). The seats were ejected, but their parachutes didn't function because of the low altitude.

The Air Force said it will replace the ejection seats on around 150 F-5Fs with more advanced ones that function in lower altitudes between next year and 2013 at the cost of 50 billion won ($42.2 million).

Families of the deceased pilots blamed the Air Force for letting the training mission go on in dangerous weather conditions, though some single-pilot flights were grounded. Families also claimed the Air Force didn’t inform the pilots of the amount of fog in the area or how low they were flying.

By Moon Gwang-lip [joe@joongang.co.kr]
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