Pilots eject safely after fighter jets collide

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 26 June, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 26 June, 2008, 12:00am

Crash during drills in Inner Mongolia

Two pilots were saved after two Jian-8 fighter jets collided during a training mission in Inner Mongolia yesterday.

The jets crashed into a mountain near Jiucaizhuang town in Qingshuihe county in the suburbs of Hohhot, the autonomous region's capital, officials said.

'Around 8.30am some villagers in our town heard explosions in the air and then saw two pilots had parachuted [out],' a spokesman for the Jiucaizhuang government said.

'We immediately reported to our county government,' the spokesman said, adding that two areas had been sealed off as soon as officials from Hohhot and the army arrived.

The spokesman said the two pilots were conscious as they were taken to the People's Hospital in the county.

A hospital spokeswoman said they had arrived at about 2pm and had been discharged at 3pm.

She said the pilots had suffered abdominal injuries which were not life-threatening.

Xinhua reported that the fighter jets crashed into an inhabited area after the collision and both pilots had parachuted to safety, suffering only minor injuries.

It said both planes were assigned to the northern Shenyang Military District. One crashed into Wulipo, leaving only the tail intact. The other plane caught fire on the ground in a village, but there were no reports of any casualties on the ground.

It was the second military plane crash within a month. On May 31, a Russian-designed Mi-171 transport helicopter crashed during an earthquake relief mission in Wenchuan county, Sichuan .

All 18 people aboard - five crew members and 13 civilians - were killed.

The five helicopter military crew members were later canonised as martyrs by the Central Military Commission.

Taipei-based People's Liberation Army expert Andrew Yang Nien-dzu said the scene of the latest crash was close to the air force's largest training centre.

'I think it's quite normal for such accidents to happen during drills,' Mr Yang said. 'Actually, pilots of the PLA Air Force need more flying training.'

The air force was criticised for inadequate training during the earthquake rescue mission as many relief goods were dropped in the wrong places, such as remote mountain areas.

The Jian-8, which dates from 1964, was designed to intercept Soviet and US bombers at supersonic speeds. It is now the main training jet for the PLA's air and naval forces.

In April 2006, two pilots were killed when a Jian-8 training jet crashed into a mountain in Wenchang , Hainan .

In April 2001, a row broke out between Beijing and Washington when a Jian-8, flown by Wang Wei , plunged into the sea off Hainan after colliding with an American EP-3 spy plane. Wang's body was never found.