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2 Air Force pilots killed in helicopter crash

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Itongadol.- Two Air Force pilots were killed in a helicopter crash in the Revadim area south of Gedera on Tuesday. Contact with the Cobra helicopter was lost on Monday night prompting IDF forces to launch a search.

Air Force Commander Major-General Amir Eshel ordered the establishment of a military commission of inquiry. The victims\’ families have been notified.

At around 1 am, a citizen driving on Route 3 reported seeing a large object in the air falling into a wheat field near Kibbutz Revadim. Magen David Adom teams, rescue and army forces were called to the scene.

In addition, Air Force jets canvassed the area. At around 5 am, part of the helicopter\’s propeller was found. Earlier, defense officials estimated that the helicopter had fallen into a water reservoir in the area where other parts may be found.

The IDF said that the helicopter had left a base in central Israel for a routine training flight together with another helicopter which returned to base.

The helicopter performed further training at which point contact was lost. It did not report a malfunction. The helicopter did not explode in the air but crashed into the ground as it did not carry a large amount of gas.

Moshe, a yeshiva student who participated in the search, said: "When we saw the mess in the air and the security forces we went to help with the search. We went into the field and several hundred meters into it found part of the helicopter\’s main rotor. The people with me found another part. It\’s fortunate the helicopter did not catch fire."

The past year has seen several Air Force accidents and near-accidents which fortunately had no casualties. In January 2012, a pilot and navigator were forced to abandon an F-16 jet in the Ramat David base due to a technical fault discovered during landing. The two pilots were unharmed and a commission of inquiry was established.

A week earlier, an F-16 jet on a routine flight in the north veered off the runway at Ramat David. No injuries were reported but damage was caused to the aircraft. An initial investigation suggests that a technical fault and not a human error had caused the jet to veer off.

Most recently, two senior IAF officers nearly crashed their jets into each other during a drill last September. They had been flying 100 meters apart, against protocol.

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