T-50 jet crashes, killing two pilots

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T-50 jet crashes, killing two pilots


Military investigators check the debris of a T-50 training jet that crashed yesterday during an exercise near the southwestern city of Gwangju. Two pilots aboard the jet were killed in the crash. [NEWSIS]

GWANGJU - A South Korean training jet crashed during an exercise near the southwestern city of Gwangju yesterday, killing its two pilots.

The Ministry of Defense said yesterday that a T-50 training jet from the 1st Fighter Wing of the Korean Air Force crashed at around 2:08 p.m. near the Gwangju air base in Seochang-dong, Seo District, killing its two pilots, identified by their ranks, surnames and ages as Major No, 33, and Captain Jeong, 34.

It was the first time a T-50, Korea’s first indigenously built aircraft, developed jointly by Korea Aerospace Industries and Lockheed Martin, crashed during a training exercise.

In November last year, a T-50B Black Eagle trainer jet from the 8th Fighter Wing crashed into a mountain in Gangwon, killing 31-year-old pilot Captain Kim Wan-hee. The cause of the crash was a technical mistake made by an Air Force mechanic.

The T-50 is currently produced at a factory in Sacheon, South Gyeongsang. Korea is scheduled to export 16 T-50s to the Indonesian military starting next month.

The Defense Ministry said the jet took off from the Gwangju airbase at 2 p.m. and crashed 1.6 kilometers (0.99 miles) east of the base’s runway eight minutes later.

“The aircraft was flying like it was performing a stunt at a very low altitude,” a Seochang-dong resident who witnessed the accident told the JoongAng Ilbo. “Black smoke suddenly came out from the aircraft and then it grazed a dike and crashed into a rice paddy.”

The Defense Ministry believes that one of the pilots was able to eject from the aircraft with a parachute but died in the fall into the rice paddy. The second pilot was found dead in the aircraft. The ministry didn’t say which pilot ejected.

The aircraft was seriously mangled beyond recognition and scorched by fire, but no civilians were killed or injured as it crashed into the paddy. The military retrieved the body of the pilots and is investigating the cause of the accident.

“We are trying to find out the exact cause of the crash by reviewing the black box,” a spokesman of the 1st Fighter Wing said.

BY JEONG YONG-SOO [sakwon80@joongang.co.kr]
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