Israel Air Force Won't Ground F-16I Fighter Jets Despite Fatal Crash Landing

Initial findings suggest pilots lost control due to weight imbalance on their aircraft when preparing for landing. Pilot Ohad Cohen Nov's funeral will be held Friday.

An Israeli F-16I fighter jet, dubbed 'Sufa,' taking off.
Ilan Assayag

The Israel Air Force is continuing to investigate the cause of Wednesday’s fighter jet crash that killed deputy squadron commander Maj. Ohad Cohen Nov. Unlike in past cases, the military decided not to ground all F-16I fighter jets following the incident.

Initial findings indicate that Cohen Nov, along with the co-pilot who was with him in the cockpit, were preparing for landing at the southern Ramon air base following a mission over the Gaza Strip when they noticed a weight imbalance on their aircraft.

Army Radio reported that the two followed procedure and made a second attempt to land their American-made F-16I, dubbed in the Israel Air Force "Sufa," when apparently losing control of the aircraft, they decided to eject. In most instances, after a crew member pulls a handle, ejection is automatic and the cockpit canopy flies off. The co-pilot, seated at the rear, is the first to eject, followed seconds later by the pilot.

A part of the F-16I after a fatal crash landing in southern Israel, October 5, 2016.

Air Force officials decided not to ground Israel's F-16I squadrons due the incident. Following a prior crash of a F-16I in 2013, the Israel Air Force grounded all of the jets of that type for about 16 weeks after the plane’s crew abandoned the aircraft over the sea when the engine suddenly stalled. The military grounded the aircraft to examine why the engine cut off and no training flights were conducted until the matter was clarified. Use of the plane gradually resumed after an interim report on the incident was submitted.

Cohen Nov was considered a professional and experienced pilot, who had just recently been appointed deputy squadron commander, a major operational role in the Air Force. He is survived by his pregnant wife, by a daughter, two sisters and his parents.

The military announced the pilot's funeral will be held on Friday at 11 AM in Mazor, a moshav in central Israel.