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Unfortunate Accident During Night Training Exercise

Posted July. 15, 2005 03:02,   


Faulty machinery or pilot error?

On the night of July 13, two air force fighter jets went down near Chuja Island over the South and West Seas. There is speculation that the cause of the accidents was that the pilots were wearing night vision goggles (NVG) during difficult exercises which could have caused optical illusions.

Meanwhile, there is the possibility that the crashes could have been caused by mechanical failure in the antiquated jets.


Four pilots, Major Lee (35), two other majors and one captain are the victims of this accident. These four were on a nighttime training mission over the water. It is presumed that after their last communication, “Target sighted, will attack,” they crashed and died.

This mission, which was to stop enemies from entering the ocean, requires high-level flying skills. The air force stated that these four were highly skilled pilots, all of them being flight leaders and instructors.

Air force authorities were shocked that four of their men disappeared at one time. According to them, in order to train a 10-year veteran pilot to fly F-5E/Fs, it costs 4.2 billion won, 7.5 billion for F-4Es and 8.7 billion for KF-16s.


There is a high possibility of optical illusions while training wearing NVGs. This illusion, vertigo, causes the pilot to confuse the sky and sea while flying above the water. This is the main cause for many accidents.

The jets involved in the accident were old, unlike the new KF-16s, and they did not have a low altitude alert system, which gives an automatic warning when a jet is flying lower than a minimum altitude.

Also, because the F-4E and F-5F are outdated machines, built 35 and 22 years ago, respectively, there is a possibility of mechanical failure. In fact, the two types of jets have caused accidents every year for the past five years. The air force owns approximately 80 F-4Es, and 200 F-5E/F 200s.

Colonel Yun Woo, head of the air force’s operational division, stated, “The cause of the accidents will be revealed after a through analysis of the remains.”

However since these jets do not have black boxes, which record the plane’s movements, this will not be an easy task.

Search progress-

The air force has searched near Chuja Island, where the planes crashed, with planes and ships on July 13 and found some remains of the pilots, Major Kim’s uniform, and wreck of the jets.

Sang-Ho Yun ysh1005@donga.com