IAF resumes F-16i training flights

Fleet was suspended in March after carcinogen found in cockpits; seven fighter jets still grounded.

F-16I 224.88 (photo credit: IDF)
F-16I 224.88
(photo credit: IDF)
A month after grounding Israel's most advanced fighter jet, on Monday morning Israel Air Force commander Maj.-Gen. Elazar Shkedy announced a resumption of training fights in F-16I planes. The fleet of close to 100 aircraft had been grounded in late March after carcinogenic material was found in the cockpit of seven of the planes. The planes in which the material (formaldehyde) was found are still grounded and the army is still trying to locate the source of the material. The F-16I - called "Sufa" (Storm) in Israel - is one of the most advanced and sophisticated combat fighter jets in the world, alongside Israel's F-15I. On Sunday night, Shkedy met with Sufa pilots and technical crews and presented them with the probe's findings and his decision to lift the ban on training flights. "The planes will return to regular flights after it was proven that the level of risk to the crew from the material is very low," an IDF statement released Monday morning said. the statement added that special filters had been installed in some of the planes to minimize the risk. The IAF said that the plane's manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, had fully cooperated with the investigation. Shkedy decided to suspend training flights - operational flights continued - after a number of pilots complained of a bad smell coming from the cockpit of one of the planes. The IDF Medical Branch conducted tests and discovered that the smell was caused by a type of formaldehyde, high concentrations of which are known to be carcinogenic.