Israel Air Force Grounds Flights Over Pilot Safety Violations

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An Israel Air Force F-16 fighter jet (illustration).Credit: Yuval Tebol

For the second time in just over a week, the commander of the Israel Air Force grounded training flights for fighter jets on Wednesday due to safety violations by pilots in the air.

Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel's decision came in the wake of incidents at two air force bases, Hatzor and Ramat David, in which pilots of F-16 fighter jets flew too close to each other.

A week earlier, Eshel canceled training flights for a day after an F-16 pilot at the Hatzerim air force base suffered a bout of vertigo and lost control of the aircraft while flying over the Mediterranean, reported on March 25. The weapons system operator in the two-seat plane took over the controls and landed the plane safely.

The squadron of the air force's most advanced fighter jet, the F-16i, was grounded from early July until late August after one of the planes went down in the sea – but not due to pilot error, rather because the engine malfunctioned and shut down.

The pilot and navigator bailed out and were rescued by an air force helicopter after they spent an hour in the water. Training flights on the F-16i resumed "due to progress in the technical investigation," the Israel Defense Forces said.

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