TAIPEI, Taiwan - The Chinese-language United Evening News yesterday reported that of six pilots who operated the three Boeing AH-64 Apaches during the Republic of China Military Academy (ROCMA, 中華民國陸軍軍官學校) graduation ceremony on June 16, one was an unqualified pilot in training, adding one more mark to the negative track record of the choppers.
Reportedly, a military source had stated that as President Ma Ying-jeou had attended the ceremony to review the quality of the academy, the army had ordered a trainee who was receiving Apache pilot training locally to co-pilot one of the Apaches in hopes of impressing the president.
An Apache formation requires six pilots said the source, and as there was a shortage of pilots, a trainee had to be added.
The source went on to say that as of now, there are only six qualified pilots who have received Apache training in the United States.
As one of the pilots has been grounded since the accidental crash in Longtan Township in April 25, there were not enough qualified pilots available to display the formation.
Not only did the army order an under-qualified pilot to operate an Apache, the army also altered the standardized training route and location of the chopper.
The entire operation became a training exercise for a rookie while in the presence of the president, who was present to review the military parade stated the source.
Army Command Headquarters States Legitimacy of Pilots
In response to questions from the media, the Army Command Headquarters of the Ministry of National Defence (國防部陸軍司令部, ACH) said that the operation in question was conducted by instructors who had completed their training in the United States and by locally trained pilots.
Locally trained pilots have all completed their academic classes and flight simulations, and have all been approved to participate in their current flight training, which enables them to legally conduct flight training missions.
As the operation during the graduation is considered a technical training exercise that is only a display of simple flight formations, local trainees are eligible to be on board the helicopter, said a representative of the ACH.
The ACH response was also reported to be disputed by a military serviceman who cited the Longtan Township incident in April as a case example.
The 808 serial number chopper that crashed was the first partnership exercise conducted by an American trained pilot and a local trainee.
The accident also grounded the entire fleet for a long period of time and, under current regulations that require local trainees to clock in two and a half months of flight time, there are no qualified trainees locally said the serviceman.