An air force instructor and a pilot course cadet were killed Tuesday when a training plane crashed in southern Israel.
The instructor, named as Maj. (res.) Itay Zaiden, who flew F-16 jets in the air force and recently completed his mandatory military service, worked as an instructor as part of his reserve duty. The trainee, named as Cpl. Lihu Ben-Basa, began his flight training course four months ago and was still in the early stages of his training.
They were set to conduct a routine training flight on a route familiar to trainees. At about 11:35 A.M., the plane crashed in a field in the northern part of the Negev desert for an unknown reason, without the pilot warning the control tower about a technical problem or intent to make an emergency landing.
Officers from the military's airborne combat rescue unit were called to the scene along with rescue services and found fragments of the plane on fire and both of the pilots dead.
The air force's fleet of Grob G 120 training planes is maintained by Elbit Systems, following the military's decision to outsource maintenance of the craft. The military is unaware of any technical issues with the plane and the circumstances of the crash are under investigation.
Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin, commander of the air force, announced the suspension of training flights and ordered the formation of a commission to investigate the incident.
Brig. Gen. Hidai Zilberman, the military's spokesman, called the crash "a serious, grave incident that shold not have happened."
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The crash occurred near Kibbutz Mishmar Hanegev, not far from the southern cities of Rahat and Be'er Sheva.