TAIPEI - The Ministry of National Defence (MND) yesterday confirmed that two US F-18 fighter jets made emergency landings at Tainan Airport following the discovery of mechanical problems on one of the planes.
Reportedly, both fighters landed at the airport, which also serves as the Tainan Air Force Base, at 1:19 p.m. yesterday. Following the discovery of the mechanical malfunction, the planes sought approval from the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) to make emergency landings.
According to the CAA, the administration received the emergency 7700 squawk code from one of the craft prior to their landing. After receiving the signal, the CAA requested the Kaohsiung Approach to assist the fighters to land at the airbase in Tainan.
The military also said that the Air Force's 443rd Tactical Fighter Wing assisted the F-18s during their landing, and reportedly guided the malfunctioning fighter to a maintenance hangar that is operated by local aircraft maintenance company Air Asia Co. Ltd.
However, as neither the military nor Air Asia have the technical capabilities nor the authority to repair American military planes, the US will reportedly dispatch the necessary engineers and equipment to fix the F-18.
The MND also denied local reports that claimed the other jet that accompanied the malfunctioning F-18 is an EA-6B Prowler, an electronic-warfare aircraft.
Following the incident, American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) spokesperson Mark Zimmer came forward and thanked Taiwan. The AIT also confirmed that there were no difficulties during the emergency landing, and that both pilots remain safe. However, the AIT did not disclose anymore details regarding the matter, including the fighters' point of origin or original destination.
Planes' Landing a Demonstration of Power against AIIB: China Netizens
In related news, the landing of the American F-18s reportedly sparked a widespread discussion among mainland China netizens, with some formulating a theory that the planes were conducting investigative operations along the coast of China.
Some commenters even went as far as to speculate that the landing itself was a demonstration of power from the United States to China against the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).