One pilot missing in Xian air show crash
Aviation expert blames outdated engines for fighter's failure, but another cites controls
A mainland-made JH-7 fighter-bomber plunged nose-first into the ground at an air show in Xian yesterday morning. One pilot who ejected was injured, while the other was missing, state media reported.
China Central Television showed footage of the plane falling from the sky and bursting into flames when it hit the ground. The reports identified the plane as a "Flying Leopard" - also known as the JH-7 - a two-seater stalwart used by the Chinese Air Force.
Xinhua quoted air show director He Liang as saying the plane plunged into a wetland near the Pucheng Neifu Airport in Pucheng county at about 10.45am, during the first day of the show staged by the China International General Aviation Convention. One pilot managed to eject, but the other was still missing, he added. He said no one on the ground was hurt.
People two kilometres away could see heavy smoke billowing above the airport, Xinhua said, adding that the show had continued.
The Ministry of National Defence said that no People's Liberation Army aircraft took part in the air show.
Andrei Chang, chief editor of the Canadian-based Kanwa Defence Review, said this meant that the plane had only recently rolled off the production line and had not yet been delivered to the air force.
"It means the two pilots are test pilots for its manufacturer, the Xian Aircraft Industry Corp, because it was on display at the company's production base," Chang said. "I am not surprised by today's accident because the JH-7's Mk 202 engine is too old and outdated."
The JH-7, fitted with British Rolls-Royce Spey Mk 202 engines, was first seen at the 1996 Zhuhai air show.
However, Antony Wong Dong, president of the International Military Association in Macau, said the accident might have been caused by a failure of flight control systems.
"The Mk 202 is very reliable. A nosedive should not be caused by an engine problem, it is a flight control issue," Wong said.