Israeli Air Force pilot, cadet killed in crash in the South

Israel Air Force investigating crash; all training flights suspended

Aircraft crashes near Mishmar HaNegev, Nov. 24, 2020 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Aircraft crashes near Mishmar HaNegev, Nov. 24, 2020
(photo credit: Courtesy)
An Israel Air Force pilot and a cadet were killed on Tuesday after their light, single-engine training aircraft crashed in a field north of Beersheba, the military confirmed.
The dead were identified as flight instructor, Itay Zaiden, 42, from Kibbutz Shoval, a major in reserves who flew F-16s, and corporal Lihu Ben-Bassa, 19, from Rishon Lezion, who was four months into the IAF’s training program.
The two had taken off from the IAF flight school at Hatzerim Airbase in their two-seat Grob G-120 ‘Snunit’ (‘Swallow’) aircraft.
An IAF helicopter from the 669 Search and Rescue Unit and Magen David Adom paramedics arrived at the scene of the crash, near the Kibbutz Mishmar Hanegev shortly after the accident and found two men unresponsive. They were later pronounced dead at the scene.
Photos of the crash site showed aircraft parts, some in flames, scattered across the field.
“When I arrived at the scene, I found two young men who sustained critical injuries due to their aircraft having crashed. Unfortunately, they were both pronounced dead at the scene,” said United Hatzalah volunteer EMT Yosef Abu Jafer who was one of the first responders at the scene.
Their bodies were later taken by helicopter to Assaf Harofeh Hospital in central Israel before being transferred to the Abu Kabir Institute of Forensic Medicine.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz sent his condolences to the families of the two men killed and vowed that the IDF “will do everything to investigate the incident and draw the necessary conclusions. This is a serious accident that has inflicted a heavy toll on us.”
Gantz spoke with Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi on Tuesday night and received an update regarding the initial details of the investigation.
IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Hidai Zilberman said that the military has begun investigating the crash which occurred around 11.30 a.m.
“There are many things we don’t know, we are only a few hours after the crash,” he said, adding that they are looking into several options, including a technical malfunction.
“From what we understand, there had been no communication between the plane and the tower at the time of the crash and the weather was good,” he said.
It was the first fatal training accident since 2008 when an instructor and cadet were killed in similar circumstances, but aboard a different type of aircraft.
The German-made “Snunit” trainers that the IAF began using in 2002, are leased from Elbit, which is also in charge of their maintenance. The two crew sit side by side.
According to Zilberman, such flights take less than an hour and instructors are able to take control of the plane if needed.
Following the crash, the head of the IAF, Maj.-Gen. Amikam Norkin suspended all training flights until the investigation that will be led by a senior officer with the rank of colonel, and see the full participation of Elbit, is complete.
“Every accident is a significant event and will be investigated in depth,” Zilberman said. “This was an accident that didn’t need to happen.”
Notice was given to their families.
Tzvi Joffre contributed to this report.