Today, Brig. Gen. (Res.) Relik Shafir, a retired IAF pilot and former commander of the Tel Nof Airforce Base, gave a briefing on the IAF helicopter crash in Romania which occurred yesterday. The following are excerpts from his briefing:
- Yesterday, Monday 26 July 2010, at roughly 14:00, an IAF CH-53 helicopter crashed during a training accident in Romania during a routine exercise. On board the helicopter were 6 Israeli crew members and 1 Romanian officer.
- This routine annual training exercise has been in place since 2004. The exercise takes place with the IAF and dozens of other European and US air forces. Such exercises are standard practice for any airforce and designed to teach pilots to fly in unfamiliar terrain and under different conditions.
- The crash site is in a mountainous region of Romania and rescue forces are still not on the scene. While no bodies have been found yet, those aboard the flight are believed dead.
- The causes of the crash have not been determined yet, although the likelihood of technical failure is low. More probable that there was pilot error or misjudgment due to flying and weather conditions. All of the pilots on board were very experienced. Despite that during the training, the wing man separated from the flight lead and lost sight and contact due to heavy fog.
- In the early hours of the morning an Israeli investigation team departed for Romania on 2 C130 Hercules planes comprised of several dozen people. Brig. Gen. (Res.) Shlomo Mashiach is heading the investigation team, and is accompanied by the squadron commander, a search and rescue team, medical crew, and a rabbinical team who will identify the bodies.
- As is usual after such accidents, there is a standard safety reassessment of all CH-53 helicopters underway, although all operational flights will continue as usual.
- The training exercise was scheduled to be completed on the 29th of July in any event.
Brig. Gen. (Res.) Shafir noted that all of the pilots were not only highly experienced, but were great men. He stated that their probable death was “not only a great loss to their families but to the air force family as well.”