Pilot rescued after his F-5E crashes in N. Chungcheong

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Pilot rescued after his F-5E crashes in N. Chungcheong

A South Korean F-5E fighter jet crashed into Mount Iseong in Jeungpyeong County, North Chungcheong, at noon yesterday.

The 32-year-old pilot, identified as Lt. Lee, parachuted to safety just before the plane hit the ground, and is being treated at a military hospital.

Lee tried to make an emergency landing before being forced to turn the plane toward a clearing only about 100 meters (328 feet) from civilians and make his escape. He was rescued quickly and taken to the hospital, but firefighters battled the flames from the explosion for about an hour.

The Air Force said the plane pitched up sharply immediately after takeoff from an air base at Cheongwon shortly before 11 a.m. for a training exercise. Authorities formed a task force to investigate the precise cause of the accident.

The fighter jet had been used in training since Monday at Gangneung Air Base in Gangwon as part of a comprehensive air combat training exercise called Soaring Eagle.

The Air Force imposed a temporary flight restriction on all its F-5E planes.

The aircraft Lt. Lee was flying has been in service since late 1978 and had logged 6,610 hours in flight. It was scheduled to be decommissioned in 2017.

The F-5E has a somewhat checkered history in Korea. About 170 of the fighters are in service with the Air Force, and 12 of them have crashed since 2000.

In March 2010, two F-5E planes flying together crashed in the mountains of Daegwallyeong, Gangwon, leaving three pilots dead.

BY SHIN JIN-HO [enational@joongang.co.kr]
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