An Israel Air Force F-16 fighter jet crew bailed out of their plane on Wednesday during a landing at Ramat David Air Force Base. The crew – the combat pilot and the navigator – ejected from the plane when it was already down on the runway, after they identified a technical malfunction. The two are said to be in good condition and are on their way to medical examinations at a hospital.
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In the wake of the incident, the air force has discontinued all training flights on the Barak model of the F-16. However, operational flights will continue as usual in these aircraft and the rest of the IAF combat fleet. IAF commander Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel has ordered the establishment of a committee of investigation to examine the circumstances of the incident.
The initial reports indicate that at the landing stage, when the wheels of the plane had already touched down on the runway and the plane began decreasing its speed from 300 kilometers per hour, a malfunction was discovered and the crew decided to eject. The concern facing the crew was that the plane might overturn; therefore, according to the air force, the crew members behaved as required in such situations.
“The pilot and the navigator sit exposed and at high speed there is concern about going off the runway and the plane overturning. The instructions are to eject, and that’s what they did,” said a senior IAF officer Wednesday.
The aircraft itself was damaged as it swerved off the landing strip and rolled to a stop. The plane is now being repaired by air force technical teams. According to the officer, he is not currently aware of any connection between this incident and other instances a flight crew abandoning an aircraft.
“My impression,” he said, “is that the pilots did exactly as they were taught on the simulator. They could have been killed and therefore they bailed out.”