IAF pilot: 'They were our friends'

Veteran was flying behind chopper.

July 29, 2010 14:14
2 minute read.
AN IAF helicopter waits near the crash site in Romania yesterday.

Helicopter Romania 311. (photo credit: IDF Spokesperson)


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Maj. B., a veteran pilot in in the IAF, was flying over the Carpathian Mountains on Monday in what was supposed to be a challenging but also routine training flight.

At one point, near the city of Bran, Maj. B. and the pilots of the other helicopters began approaching a thick patch of fog. Speaking between themselves, the pilots decided to keep a distance – as regulations require – to prevent a midair collision, one of the lessons of the “Helicopter Disaster” in 1997 when two Yasour helicopters crashed in midair in northern Israel, killing all of the 73 soldiers aboard.

Romania: Four helicopters begin to return home
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Editorial: Tragedy in Romania

Moving away from the fog, Maj. B. looked for the other helicopters but did not find one. Like the rest of the pilots, he tried to raise the missing helicopter on the radio to no avail. The first thought that went through his head was not the worst-case scenario.

“I did not think of an accident right away,” the experienced pilot said. “The worst-case scenario was not going through my mind.”

That assessment changed fairly quickly after the other helicopters located, through the thick fog, the remains of the aircraft in a steep ravine below.

“It is a difficult switch. One moment you are flying and improving your skills and learning new capabilities and the next moment you are trying to rescue your friends,” he said.

“The pain is great since these are our friends and squadron mates,” he said. “We were able to carry out the mission though since we understand the importance of the rescue mission for the families, for ourselves and for all of Israel.”

On Wednesday, Maj. B. again took to the air to transport the IAF search-and-rescue operators from Unit 669 to the scene of the crash. Against him was the unstable weather in the Carpathian Mountains – the fog and rain.

“We could not have received a more complicated mission,” he said. “We had to cooperate with a foreign military, fly in tough terrain, large areas that we are not familiar with and where the weather changes all the time. This requires us to operate in the best way we can.”

“We knew that we were needed and that helped us do what needed to get done,” he said.

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