A Chinese navy plane crashed in Hainan province on Tuesday killing two crew members, the military said. A short statement said the crash happened during a training exercise over rural Ledong county in the southern island province. No one else was reported to have been injured after the plane hit the ground and the cause of the incident is being investigated. Footage that purported to be taken from the crash site started circulating on social media after the accident. The mobile phone footage, which news portal 163.com said was taken in Hainan, showed smoke rising from piles of wreckage next to a damaged water tower as bystanders gathered at the site. The person who uploaded the footage said the plane had hit the water tower before crashing into the ground. The PLA’s official statement did not specify the type plane that crashed, although unverified witness account online said it was a twin-seat Xian JH-7 “Flying Leopard”. The JH-7, which entered service with the navy and air force in the 1990s, has been involved in a number of fatal accidents over the years. Former Chinese navy sailor looks after parents of friend who ‘died a hero’ The country’s worst military air accident in recent years happened in January 2018. At least 12 crew members died when a PLA Air Force plane, believed to be an electronic reconnaissance aircraft, crashed in Guizhou in the southwest of the country. Between 2016 and 2017, there were at least four accidents involving the navy’s J-15 “Flying Sharks”, one of them resulting in the death of the pilot. Military commentators have previously said that China’s drive to improve its combat readiness, which includes the building of new aircraft carriers and warplanes, has resulted in a serious shortage of qualified pilots. To fill the vacancies the Chinese military has started a major recruitment drive and intensive training programme for pilot pilots. Currently China has one aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, in service, which can carry a maximum of 24 J-15s as well as other aircraft. Meanwhile, the new home-grown carrier Type 001A will soon be commissioned, which is designed to accommodate to carry eight more fighters. In addition, construction is believed to have started on another carrier that will be able to carry heavier and more advanced warplanes. Chinese navy veteran warns training, not hardware is key to military preparedness According to figures from the end of 2016, there were only 25 pilots qualified to fly the J-15 while 12 others were in training. Most of the Chinese navy’s pilots have been redeployed from the air force, which is itself in need of more trained pilots. This year the navy for the first time began a nation-wide programme to scout out potential pilots. Speaking on the sidelines of the ongoing legislative meeting in Beijing Feng Wei, a PLA pilot from the Western Theatre, said the military was currently intensifying its pilots’ training as increasing amounts of new equipment entered service. “Personnel quality is the key to everything,” he added.