RSAF officer hurt after training jet crash in US

BARELY a day after the jet he was training in crashed in the United States, a 31-year-old Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) officer was tweeting about his experience.

"I survived a plane crash," wrote Lieutenant Ephraim Lu Zhen Yang, who escaped with arm and rib fractures after the crash at an American naval air station in Pensacola, Florida, at around 10.30am on Monday there.

He also updated his Facebook status to assure his family and friends that his condition had stabilised.

On Wednesday morning in Singapore, the Ministry of Defence issued a statement revealing that Lt Lu, a weapon systems officer trainee, had been on a "routine training flight" in the back seat of a T-45C Goshawk when the jet crashed on the runway.

Lt Lu "is conscious and in stable condition", the statement said, adding that the RSAF was helping his family and the US Navy was investigating the cause of the crash.

The Straits Times understands that Lt Lu's parents are on the way to Florida, and he is having difficulties breathing and walking but is expected to make a full recovery.

The training jet was being flown by a US Navy instructor, whose name is being withheld for privacy reasons, when it crashed while attempting to land.

Both the pilot, who also survived, and Lt Lu were airlifted to Baptist Hospital in Pensacola, where the Singaporean is still undergoing treatment.

Speaking to The Straits Times in a phone interview, public affairs officer for the US' Chief of Naval Air Training, Lieutenant John Supple, said that the pilot's injuries "were less severe, and he was released from the hospital the night of the incident".

Lt Supple said this was the US Navy's first training aircraft crash since May last year, when a student and instructor ejected safely from another T-45C during a flight near a naval base in Texas.

The T-45C reportedly costs US$22 million (S$27.4 million) and is manufactured by Boeing, powered by a Rolls Royce engine.

The plane's top speed is more than 1,030kmh.

The investigation into the crash may take several months, but Lt Supple said "there are early indications that there was a mechanical aircraft malfunction".

It is understood that there were emergency communications between the station tower and the aircraft prior to landing.

Training "was suspended for a while but the base is back to full training", added Lt Supple.

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