2 pilots die in helicopter crash during exercise

Cobra helicopter crashes near Revadim, killing two reservist pilots; IAF commander orders investigation into accident.

Site of IDF helicopter crash near Kibbutz Revadim 370 (photo credit: Amir Cohen/Reuters)
Site of IDF helicopter crash near Kibbutz Revadim 370
(photo credit: Amir Cohen/Reuters)
An Israel Air Force Cobra helicopter on a training flight crashed south of Gedera overnight on Monday, breaking into pieces and killing the two reservist pilots on board.
The IDF named the pilots as Lt.-Col. (res.) Noam Ron, 49, from Oranit and Maj. (res.) Erez Flekser, 31, from Herzliya.
An experienced air crew was flying the aircraft, which was on a routine training flight, the IDF said.
The military launched a ground and air search – including the use of drones – after radio contact with the helicopter was lost. Rescuers located wreckage scattered around the crash site shortly after 5 a.m. IAF chief Maj.-Gen. Amir Eshel grounded all Cobra helicopters pending the result of an investigation into the circumstances of the crash.
An initial investigation pointed to a catastrophic technical malfunction as a possible cause for the accident. It also found that the pilots had radioed the Palmahim air base before the crash, saying they would land there in six minutes. There was no distress call prior to the accident.
The funerals of both men will take place on Wednesday.
Flekser’s friends and loved ones greeted the news of his death with shock and sorrow, speaking of a young pilot who had loved his family and had a taste for traveling.
His friend Maj. Y. told Army Radio he was struggling to come to terms with news of the loss.
“Erez was an amazing person,” he said.
“One of the things that characterized him most was the desire to travel. He would go traveling at any moment, mainly in Israel. During every holiday, he would get the guys together for a two-to-three-day trip, with tents and equipment on our backs.”
The Cobra, known in Hebrew as “Tzefa,” was involved in two other air disasters in recent years. In September 2008 two pilots died in a crash in the Galilee, and in March 1998 two more were killed in a crash over the Mediterranean.
Graphic credit: Noa Amouyal
In 1997, the IDF suffered the largest aviation disaster in its history when two CH- 53 Yasour transport helicopters collided in the North, killing 73 soldiers.
In July 2010, another CH-53 crashed in Romania, killing six IDF personnel and a Romanian soldier.
Jerusalem Post staff and Ben Hartman contributed to this report.