Ministry to look into T-50 jet crash

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Ministry to look into T-50 jet crash

The Korean Ministry of National Defense said on Monday that it is looking into the flight system of its domestic T-50 trainer aircraft after a jet crashed in Indonesia on Sunday, killing both pilots.

The T-50 Golden Eagle spun out of control and crashed into an air force base complex near Adi Sutjipto Airport in Yogyakarta, a tourist destination on the main island of Java, according to a witness who spoke to MetroTV.

The incident occurred on the second day of an air show celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Air Force Flight School in Yogyakarta, said Air Vice Marshal Dwi Badarmanto, an Indonesian air force spokesman.

The pilot and co-pilot, both Indonesians, died instantly, and an investigation team has been sent to the crash site, he said.

“On our part, we plan to examine the pilot system of the Korean Air Force’s T-50s,” Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said at a briefing Monday in expressing his official condolences.

He added that the government was prepared to support Indonesian authorities if the cooperation of Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) was requested.

The KAI said Monday that it would dispatch officials to the site and carry out an investigation to determine the cause of the accident if the Indonesian government requested it.

One KAI official presumed that the cause could have likely been due to an aircraft defect, a maintenance problem or human error.

The T-50 Golden Eagle are the first supersonic trainer jets domestically developed by the KAI, with technical support from U.S. defense company Lockheed Martin. Since 2013, it has exported 16 T-50s to Indonesia, and eight aircraft have been used in an air show.

Korea’s defense industry responded swiftly and cautiously to the incident, knowing that it could have a potentially negative effect on President Park Geun-hye’s push to secure the U.S.-led T-X contract, valued at 17 trillion won ($14.4 billion), to export 350 new jets to the United States.

The U.S. Air Force announced last year that it would purchase a two-seat trainer jet through the T-X program to replace its Northrop T-38 Talon.

President Park on Friday played up the possibility of exporting the domestically made T-50 jets, which she said could improve the relationship between the two countries and have a 7.3 trillion won ripple effect for the Korean economy.

BY JEONG YONG-SOO, KIM SO-HEE [kim.sohee0905@joongang.co.kr]

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