Thursday, January 21, 2016

Lockheed Martin F-16, US Air Force: Fatal accident occurred January 21, 2016 in Bagdad, Yavapai County, Arizona

Maj. Kao Ting-cheng (高鼎程) is seen is this undated file photograph. Kao was killed on Thursday, Jan. 21 after his F-16 fighter jet crashed in the state of Arizona while undergoing training near a U.S. air base, the R.O.C. Air Force said. 

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- A Taiwanese pilot was killed on Thursday in the U.S. when his F-16 fighter jet crashed during a training flight near a U.S. air base in the state of Arizona, the R.O.C. Air Force has said.

The R.O.C. Air Force Command said Maj. Kao Ting-cheng (高鼎程) was conducting regular training when his serial number 93-0711 F-16 fighter attached to the Luke Air Force Base near Phoenix, Arizona went down for unknown reasons around 9 a.m. on Thursday.

The Air Force has arranged for Kao's family members in Taiwan to fly to the U.S. in the aftermath of the tragic incident, it noted.

The Air Force is also sending representatives to the Luke Air Force Base to assist investigations into the crash, it added.

Kao was a graduate of the R.O.C. Air Force Academy in 2007, who had logged 865 flying hours. He was training at the U.S. base as part of a Taiwan-U.S military cooperation project.

The Air Force's comment came after U.S. media reports revealed the crash occurred at about 8:45 a.m. in rugged terrain about 10 miles southwest of Bagdad, Yavapai County, Arizona.

Luke Air Base officials said the Taiwanese pilot was flying solo and was engaged in air-to-air combat training with an instructor before the crash.

Brig. Gen. Scott Pleus, commander of the 56th Fighter Wing at Luke, said the pilot had been on a training program for the past six months at Luke, which is a major pilot-training base for the U.S. Air Force and foreign military services, according to U.S. media reports.

The Chinese-language Apple Daily quoted unidentified military sources as saying that Kao, 31, was a Miaoli native. After graduating from the academy, he was assigned to the Air Force's Chiayi-based 455th Tactical Fighter Wing.

He was chosen to join the F-16 training program due to his excellent performance in the fighter wing and his fluent English-language ability, sources said. His wife and two children moved to the U.S. with him for the training program.

US Works Closely with Air Force on Crash Probe

Meanwhile, the U.S.' top envoy to Taiwan, Kin Moy, issued a statement in the wake of the tragedy.

"I would like to express that our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of the pilot who was involved in the plane crash in Arizona," said Moy, director of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), which represents U.S. interests in Taiwan in the absence of official ties.

"We are monitoring the situation. AIT is in close coordination with the Ministry of National Defense and the Taiwan Air Force. AIT stands ready to offer assistance," he noted.

The F-16 training program for Taiwanese pilots has been conducted at Luke Air Force Base for over a decade since the U.S. approved the sale of 150 F-16A/B fighter jets to Taiwan in the 1990s.

According to the AIT, Taiwan maintains an F-16 training unit at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona so that Taiwanese pilots can maintain and improve their proficiency with the F-16 aircraft.

This training supports the Taiwan Relations Act, under which the U.S. makes defense equipment and services available to Taiwan to enable Taiwan to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability, the AIT said.

BAGDAD, AZ - The Air Force says an F-16 fighter has crashed in northwestern Arizona, and state and county agencies are sending aircraft and personnel to the area. 

The aircraft, assigned to the 56th Fighter Wing at Luke Air Force Base, crashed at 8:45 a.m., according to the Office of Public Affairs at AFB.

The condition of the pilot or the cause of crash was not immediately known because of the rugged terrain.

Arizona Department of Public Safety spokesman Quentin Mehr says the department is sending troopers, a rescue helicopter and explosive ordinance and hazardous material teams.

Yavapai County sheriff's spokesman Dwight D'Evelyn says the Sheriff's Office was contacted by the Air Force and sent a helicopter to the area.

Story and video:

An F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jet assigned to Luke Air Force Base crashed at approximately 8:45 a.m. Thursday northwest of the base near the town of Bagdad, Ariz.

The cause of the crash was not immediately known.

No other details, such as the nationality and condition of the pilot, were immediately available, said Luke spokeswoman Kiley Dougherty.

Wreckage from the crash had not been located by 11 a.m., said Yavapai County Sheriff's Office spokesman Dwight D'Evelyn. Both the Sheriff's Office and the Air Force had aircraft in the area searching for the downed plane, D'Evelyn said.

More details will be released when they become available, Dougherty said.

Some F-16s carry a pilot and a second crew member, but it was not immediately known whether the plane involved in the crash was carrying one or two crew members.

Luke trains both U.S. and allied country pilots in the F-16 and the F-35 Lightning II fighter jets.

Bagdad is a mining town located in the high desert of central Arizona approximately 100 miles northwest of Luke, which is in Glendale.

The townsite and nearby copper and molybdenum mine are owned by Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold. Molybdenum is a mineral that's used to strengthen steel.

The town is home to approximately 2,500 people, including mine employees and their families, school district personnel and others, according to the town's website.


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