Romania crash search 311 AP.
(photo credit: Associated Press)
BRAN, Romania – Maj. B., a veteran pilot in an Israel Air Force squadron known as the Night Birds, 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 approached a thick patch of fog. Speaking among themselves, they decided to keep a safe distance from one another, 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 over northern Israel, killing all 73 soldiers aboard.
Moving away from the fog, Maj. B. looked for the other helicopters, but could not find one of them. Like the rest of the pilots, he tried to raise the missing helicopter on the radio, to no avail.
“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.”
He added, “We knew that we were needed, and that helped us do what needed to get done.”