Preliminary report received on crash that killed instructor, cadet

Not yet possible to determine cause of crash; plane had two malfunctions prior to accident; recording devices on plane severely damaged.

Aircraft crashes near Mishmar HaNegev, Nov. 24, 2020 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Aircraft crashes near Mishmar HaNegev, Nov. 24, 2020
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Head of Israel’s Air Force Maj.-Gen. Amikam Norkin received the preliminary report into the deadly crash of the Grob G-120 ‘Snunit' ('Swallow') aircraft last week, killing a cadet and training instructor.
The crash killed 42 year-old Maj.(res.) Itai Zeidan from Kibbutz Shoval who flew F-16s, and a cadet, 19 year-old Cpl.Lihu Benbassat from Rishon Letzion who was four months into the IAF’s training program and had flown nine times on the aircraft before the deadly crash.
The report, compiled by a team of experts headed by Colonel “A.”, found that while it was not yet possible to determine the cause of the crash, the plane encountered a technical malfunction in its engine about two and a half months ago and another minor yet  severe malfunction about a week before the accident.
“At this stage, no connection was found,” the IDF said of the two malfunctions.
The military said that the plane underwent “extensive” maintenance following the second malfunction before it was inspected and given the green light to fly by technical crews. Two additional flights were flown with different crews from the flight school that day.
Zeidan and Benbassat took off at 10.43 AM from Hatzerim Airbase and were doing pre-planned exercises in good weather with good visibility. The two also carried out another exercise “at the discretion of the flight instructor.” During the flight, Zeidan asked the control tower for permission to lower his flight altitude according to procedures, “presumably” for the purpose of performing the additional exercise.
According to the IDF, this was the last contact with the control tower, and there were no reports of an emergency or malfunction prior to the accident. The last contact with radar systems was at 11.12 AM at an altitude of 900 feet.
The military said that at this stage in the investigation it is not possible to determine what maneuver the aircraft was performing prior to when it hit the ground. There have also been no indications that the aircraft was damaged while in the air, by birds or a fire in the aircraft. There was also no attempt to abandon the aircraft.
The recording devices that were on the plane were severely damaged in the accident and despite many efforts, both in Israel and abroad, the military said it will probably not be possible to repair them.
Norkin, who accepted the findings of the reports, said that the accident consisted of “many pieces of information which made it difficult to compile a clear picture and yet we must understand what happened and how it happened.”
As such, the suspension of all training flights with the Snunit will continue, the rest of the training aircraft returned to the skies last weekend. The investigation will continue to investigate all possible reasons behind the crash and representatives of the manufacturer of the aircraft will arrive to take part.
“We had a fatal accident, we need to continue with a professional and in-depth investigation,” Norkin said.
The families have been updated on the findings of the interim report.