No plan to lift decision grounding pilot
The Taiwan Armed Forces currently have no plans to lift the decision to ground a pilot who led a group of civilians on a tour where they took photographs of an AH64E Apache helicopter this March without undergoing proper procedures despite prosecutors deciding not to press charges, the Taiwan military said yesterday. Maj. Gen. Huang Kuo-ming (
), commander of the Army Aviation Special Forces Command yesterday said the pilot in question, Lt. Col. Lao Nai-cheng (
), has since been removed from his post as deputy head of a helicopter squadron in Taoyuan under the command following the March incident.
He was also been banned from flying since, Huang said. The Control Yuan has impeached Lao over the incident and he was given two serious demerits by the Army as well.
Lao is now waiting disciplinary action from the Functionary Disciplinary Sanction Commission (
), he said during a news briefing.
Addressing whether Lao would be allowed to resume flying again after prosecutors decide not to indict him last Friday, Huang said Lao must first file an application and then an evaluation committee would make a decision.
But since the Functionary Disciplinary Sanction Commission has yet to decide what disciplinary action it will levy against Lao, Huang said the military has no plans to lift the grounding order for the pilot.
The controversial visit took place on March 29 at the Army Aviation Special Forces 601st Brigade facility in Taoyuan, where Lao was found to have allowed TV personality Janet Lee ( ) and other civilians access to the AH-64E Apache, and even allowed them to sit inside the cockpit to take photographs.
The case came to light after Lee posted photos of the tour on her Facebook page, drawing media criticism of loose security in Taiwan’s military.
The Taoyuan District Prosecutors Office later launched its own probe.
Following months of investigations, prosecutors on Friday, however, decided not to press charges against any of total 15 potential defendants, citing a lack of evidence proving that any of them had violated laws and leaked confidential national security information.
The prosecutors said they could not indict them because the 601st Brigade facility is not listed as a vital area by the Ministry of National Defense (MND).
Therefore, those involved did not violate laws such as the Vital Area Regulations and the Classified National Security Information Protection Act, even though they did take photos of the AH-64E Apache helicopter during the trip.
The prosecutors’ decision has immediately drawn fury from netizens.
In protest, tens of thousands netizens have posted on the MND spokesman’s Facebook page over the past few days to request a tour of the facility to see Apache helicopter.
Asked to comment, MND spokesman Luo Shao-ho ( ) explained during the same news briefing yesterday that the 601st Brigade facility has not been listed as a vital area since as early as 1987.
Only 22 military units nationwide are listed as vital areas in accordance with regulations, he noted.
Commenting on the requests to allow civilians to tour the facility, Luo said the ministry respects their right to express their opinion on the Facebook page.
He said that the military has been arranging regular open base events around the country for years. The military welcomes netizens who wish to see Apache helicopters to visit such an event in the future, he said.