TAIPEI, Taiwan - The R.O.C. Air Force yesterday refuted a local media report that alleged the Air Force could be responsible for a civilian airplane crash last week on the offshore island of Penghu. TransAsia Flight GE222, which took off from Kaohsiung on the evening of July 23, crashed in Penghu, killing 48 of the 58 people on board.
The Chinese-language Next Magazine yesterday quoted a source as saying that the military could be partially responsible for the tragedy.
According to the magazine, the pilot of the aircraft, Lee Yi-liang (李義良), who was also killed in the accident, had previously asked the control tower of the Magong Airport if his plane could land on runway 2 instead of runway 20, due to the low visibility in the airspace near the airport.
The control tower of the joint military/civilian-use airport later asked the Air Force if the GE222 could land on the number 2 runway that is mostly used by military aircraft instead of civilian ones, the magazine said.
The number 2 runway is equipped with an Instrument Landing System (ILS), an internationally normalized system for navigation of aircraft on final approach for landing. With the ILS, it may be safer to land, the magazine said.
However, the military refused the request, ultimately leading to the crash of the airplane, the magazine claimed.
In response, the Air Force yesterday refuted the report, while expressing sincere protest over the "ungrounded accusation" the magazine raised.
The Air Force stressed the military had transferred jurisdiction over the Magong Airport to the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA, 民航局) as early as January 2001.
The CAA is now responsible for the control tower of the airport, it said in a released statement.
Also, all the fighter jets at the Magong air base were grounded on July 23 due to the stormy weather in the wake of Typhoon Matmo.
The control tower of the Magong Airport had full control over the landing and taking-off of all aircraft on that day, it noted.
The Air Force did not intervene with the tower control, it added.
The Air Force once again expressed regret over the tragedy. It added that the reason for the crash is now being investigated by the Aviation Safety Council (ASC).
CAA's Refutes Report
Meanwhile, the CAA yesterday also refuted the magazine report.
It confirmed that the pilot did ask the control tower to change to the number 2 runway before landing. According to regulations, the control tower needs to consult the Air Force before they approve or deny the request, according to the CAA.
However, the pilot later changed his mind and decided to try to land on runway 20 before the control tower could respond to his request, it said.
The CAA said it would not disclose more details about the accident because the investigation headed by ASC was still ongoing.