Leadership: China Punishes Corrupt Officers


November15, 2006: China released the investigation report of the crash of an experimental AWACS aircraft last June. A lot of mystery surrounded the incident, and the investigation report reveals why. Turns out that air force commanders tried to cover up incompetence and poor leadership, which caused the accident. Over a minute of tape on the black box was erased, and an attempt was made to make it look like only 29, not 40, people died.

What happened was that the twin engine aircraft, carrying a Chinese made surveillance radar, had passed all its technical tests, and this last flight was sort of a victory lap. That's where things began to go wrong. The aircraft was overloaded, with 40, instead of 29 (the max capacity) people on board. The aircraft flew through some chilly, moist air, at high altitude, which allowed ice to form on the wings. This unbalanced the aircraft. Since most on board were not wearing their seat belts, or even sitting down, the lurching aircraft caused several people to be thrown to the rear of the aircraft, which increased the imbalance and sent the aircraft out of control. Shortly thereafter, the aircraft crashed, killing all 40 on board.

The investigation resulted in several officers be demoted, dismissed or given demerits (which tends to ruin promotion prospects.) In a way, it was a "good news/bad news" situation. The good news was that the air force did not allow the cover-up to succeed, and the guilty officers were punished. The bad news was that this sort of thing is still going on. It's been an open secret for decades that the air force was corrupt. This interfered with developing new equipment and training. Too many officers were on the take. That has been turning around over the last few years, and this investigation, and the publicity it was given, is another example of that.




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