A Bell OH-58D Kiowa armed scout helicopter operated by Taiwan’s Republic of China Army (ROCA) has crashed at Hsinchu airbase at 15:28 local time on July 16.
According to latest reports, two crew members of the helicopter were killed in the incident. The deceased were identified as Army Major Chien Jen-chuan (pilot) and Captain Kao Chia-lung (co-pilot).
During the incident, the helicopter was returning to Taoyaun City from Hsinchu Air Base after concluding a round of live-fire drill as part of the annual week-long Han Kuang military exercises which test the capabilities of Taiwan’s armed forces in repelling a potential invasion by China.
The helicopter belonged to Taoyuan-based 601st Brigade of the Army Aviation and Special Forces Command.
According to Major General Chang Tai-sung, commander of the Taoyuan-based 601st Brigade, the helicopter was trying to return to the airbase as it was showing low rotor speed while flying 400 feet above the ground two minutes after taking off from the base.
The general said that the crew members decided to return to the base to avoid causing civilian casualties as the chopper was flying above a residential area at the time of the warning. He added that the crash was probably due to the lack of rotor speed as the helicopter was attempting to perform an 180 degree left turn.
According to the military, both pilots were critically injured after the crash and were immediately sent to the nearby Hsin Chu Armed Forces Hospital where they succumbed to the injuries.
In response to the incident, the ROC Army has grounded all of its OH-58D helicopters pending safety checks. The Army has constituted a committee to investigate the cause of the accident.
This is the second mishap involving a Taiwanese Army OH-58D helicopter in the past two months. In May, an ROC Army OH-58D helicopter sustained minor damage during a “hard landing” at a military base but the two pilots were uninjured.
Bell OH-58D Kiowa Warrior
The Bell OH-58D Kiowa Warrior is the latest model of the OH-58 Kiowa family of single-engine, single-rotor, military helicopters used for observation, utility, and direct fire support developed by American company Bell Helicopters (now Bell Textron).
The OH-58D is primarily operated in an armed reconnaissance role in support of ground troops. The OH-58 has been exported to Austria, Canada, Croatia, the Dominican Republic, Taiwan, Saudi Arabia, and Greece. It has also been produced under license in Australia.