Taiwanese search and rescue helicopter carrying six goes missing minutes after take-off

Aircraft disappeared from radar three minutes after taking off from on Orchid Island on Monday night, Air Force Command Headquarters says

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 06 February, 2018, 2:31pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 February, 2018, 9:33pm

A Taiwanese helicopter conducting a search and rescue operation with six people aboard went missing off the island’s southeast coast minutes after taking off on Monday, authorities said.

The defence ministry sent a frigate and a helicopter to look for the UH-60M Black Hawk from the National Airborne Service Corps and its passengers, with President Tsai Ing-wen directing Interior Minister Yeh Jiunn-rong to lead the operation from the ground.

The Air Force Command Headquarters said in a statement on Tuesday that the helicopter disappeared from radar three minutes after taking off from an airport on Orchid Island at 11:48pm the night before.

Aboard the aircraft were two pilots, an engineer, a patient, a family member of the patient and a medical professional.

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The helicopter had flown from Taitung county in southeastern Taiwan to conduct a search and rescue operation on the island.

The National Airborne Service Corps has a fleet of nine Black Hawk helicopters. Following the incident, the remaining eight were grounded for safety checks.

The Army Command Headquarters also grounded all of its 30 Black Hawk helicopters for safety checks on Tuesday.

The Aviation Safety Council said it has convened a special task force and will head to Taitung to assist with the search, the Central News Agency reported.

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The National Airborne Service Corps has also cancelled a ceremony planned for Saturday to celebrate two of its UH-60M Black Hawks being stationed and commissioned in Hualien county, saying the most pressing issue at present is to search for the missing helicopter and save those aboard.

A pilot who is familiar with the terrain near Lanyu said there was a lot of turbulence in the area, which made taking off and landing difficult.

Weather reports also indicate that it was raining around the time the helicopter took off, the report said.