11 November 2010 , 10:53
The two IAF crew members, both still missing, are Maj. Amihai Itkis Maj. Emanuel Levy.
Search and rescue forces were immediately called to the area and began conducting extensive searches . Illustration Photo: IAF Website
On Wednesday night (Nov. 11), an IAF fighter jet crashed in a crater in southern Israel during routine training. Search and rescue forces are searching the area for the two missing crew members
A two-seater F-16I fighter jet (dubbed Soufa, or storm) crashed in Makhtesh Ramon (a large crater in southern Israel) during training on Wednesday night (Nov. 10). Search and rescue forces were immediately called to the area and began conducting extensive searches for the plane and its two crew members. Search and rescue efforts continue with many more IAF forces joining the effort.
The black box (a flight recorder) was discovered on Thursday (Nov. 11) and will be sent to a lab in the US. Members of the Military Rabbinate are still at work at the crash site to complete the identification of the two crew members, still considered missing: Maj. Amihai Itkis, a 28-year-old pilot from Sde Warburg and Maj. Emanuel Levy, a 30-year-old navigator from Ma’ale Adumim. The pilots’ families have been notified notified.
Air Force Chief of Staff, Brig. Gen. Nimrod Shefer, said on Thursday (Nov. 11) that "the crew which flew the Soufa plane that crashed last night was a veteran crew, able and experienced, which we trust fully." According to the Brig. Gen., "Maj. Itkis was considered an experienced pilot very familiar with the Soufa and the navigator, too, Maj. Levy, was one of the first navigators of this plane."
IAF Commander Maj. Gen. Ido Nechushtan ordered an investigation committee to be formed on Wednesday (Nov. 10) and headed by an officer with the rank of Colonel to examine circumstances for the event. In addition, the IAF Commander has ordered a stop to all training for Soufa jets.
Nine crew members killed in fatal aerial accidents in recent years
The last fatal training accident of IAF fighter jets occurred in September of 2009 when an F-16A fighter plane crashed near the Pnei Hever settlement south of the Hebron Hills. IDF officer and IAF pilot Lt. Assaf Ramon was killed in the crash. The plane crashed in a routine flight during an advanced training course. The investigation committee determined there was no evidence of technical failures.
In October of 2008 a Fouga Magister plane from a flight school located above the HaBesor Stream crashed during a flight for altitude training. Capt. Matan Assa and 2nd Lt. Carmi Ilan perished in the crash. The following investigation determined that no technical failures occurred and the accident was caused by human error.
Wednesday’s training was carried out according to the flight school’s procedures. The investigation has revealed that the flight took place under sound weather conditions, that the exercise had been done for many years in the IAF and that the flight team was qualified.
Three months ago, six IAF crew members were killed in a crash of the Yasur helicopter during training in Romania. Seven crew members, four pilots, two aircraft mechanics and one observer from the Romanian Air Force were in the helicopter at the time.