Unfamiliar Romanian Skies Challenge Israeli Pilots

The helicopter crew that crashed in Romania on Monday has spent the last several weeks there training for potential missions far from Israel.

Helicopter units are vital to the deployment of grounds troops and special forces.

The training included flights in difficult conditions, over mountainous, thickly forested terrain, sometimes in bad weather with limited visibility - as was the case on Monday.

Flight crews also had to contend with the thin air over Romania's high mountains, which impedes the helicopter's movement and sometimes necessitates lowering the helicopter's weight.

The exercises are also intended to practice flying over longer distances than are possible in Israel, such as the distance from Israel to Romania, as well as the ability to navigate in unfamiliar terrain.

In Israel, flight crews already know every inch of the flight paths open to the air force.

Aside from the value of training in unfamiliar terrain, the air force sees great value in bolstering military ties with friendly countries.

It therefore conducts joint exercises of the sort carried out in Romania with many countries, first and foremost the United States.