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Air Force to lift grounding of T-50 trainers next week

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

By Kim Eun-jung

SEOUL, Sept. 5 (Yonhap) -- The South Korean Air Force will resume operation of T-50 trainer jets after a two-week grounding order imposed after a fatal crash involving the model, officials said Thursday, citing an interim report that found no technical problems with the aircraft.

The T-50 trainer crashed near an Air Force base in Gwangju, some 330 kilometers south of Seoul, on Aug. 28, killing the two pilots aboard who were on a flight training mission.

An investigation team has been looking into the cause of the incident with a flight data recorder collected at the crash site and approved the resumption of T-50 flight operations beginning Sept. 4.

"The decision comes as an analysis of the Voice and Data Recorder concluded that the fighter jet's engine, cockpit and ejection system had no problems at the time of the crash," the Air Force said in a release.

Investigators will continue to delve into the cause of the incident after the grounding is lifted, it said.

After the incident, one was found dead inside the jet, and the other pilot died from the fall while trying to eject from the jet with a parachute, according to officials.

"Although the pilot attempted the emergency ejection, he failed as the flight altitude was too low," it said.

The accident was the first reported crash of the jet model that was put into service in 2005. It had accrued more than 30,000 hours of recorded flight without an accident.

The trainer jet is a single-engine, two-seater aircraft, jointly built by local aerospace company Korea Aerospace Industries and U.S. aerospace giant Lockheed Martin. The Air Force has 50 of the aircraft in its inventory.

An aerobatic version of the T-50 plane, "Black Eagle," crashed last November, killing one pilot. Military investigators concluded that faulty maintenance by an Air Force mechanic was to blame for the tragedy.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/yonhap-news-agency/130905/air-force-lift-grounding-t-50-trainers-next-week