Chinese fighter jet crashes into houses, 1 dead on the ground

BEIJING — A Chinese Air Force fighter jet crashed into homes during a training mission in central China, killing one person on the ground and injuring two others, state media said.

The reports were unusual because China generally keeps military accidents secret or emphasizes the pilot’s heroic role in avoiding casualties on the ground. Foreign governments have recently complained about reckless flying by Chinese fighter jets, which they say endangered the crews of their own military surveillance planes.

State broadcaster CCTV’s military broadcaster reported that the J-7 plane crashed near an airport in Xiangyang, Hubei province, on Thursday morning. The pilot was ejected safely, but several residential buildings were damaged, the reports said.

The pilot and the injured have been taken to hospital and the cause of the crash is under investigation.

The J-7 is an older model, single-engine aircraft with its origins in the Soviet MiG-21 of the 1950s and was produced for nearly 50 years until production ended in 2013.

However, large numbers remain in service to provide regional air defense. China also sold an export version, the F-7, to more than a dozen countries, many of which have since retired the aircraft.

China’s civil aviation industry has come under scrutiny in recent months after the still unexplained crash of a China Eastern Airlines passenger plane on March 21 that killed all 132 people on board.

And on May 12, a Tibet Airlines flight with 122 people on board took off from the southwestern city of Chongqing when it veered off the runway and caught fire. No one was killed, but several passengers suffered minor injuries.

Australia and Canada have recently expressed concerns about reckless flying by Chinese fighter pilots.

In a statement dated June 1, the Canadian military said Chinese planes were trying to divert a Canadian long-range patrol plane from its path and that the crew had to change direction quickly to avoid a collision.

Australia said a Chinese fighter jet committed a dangerous act of aggression against an Australian Air Force plane conducting air surveillance in the South China Sea on May 26.

The Chinese J-16 accelerated and cut in front of the Australian plane, releasing the chaff containing tiny bits of aluminum designed to confuse radars being sucked into the latter’s engine, Australian Defense Secretary Richard Marles said.

China has defended the actions of its pilots and blamed foreign countries for closely guarding its territory to curb Chinese development.

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