Dune-crash pilots killed

By Yaakov Katz, October 24, 2008

In the second plane crash in as many months, two Israeli Air Force pilots died on Wednesday when their jet crashed into the Negev Desert.

The two pilots were flying in a French-made Fouga Magister, known in the IAF as "Zukit" - the IAF's primary training plane. One of the dead, 19-year-old Ilan Carmi, had been on the prestigious Pilot's Course for the past 18 months. The other pilot was identified as Cpt Matan Assa, 24, who was serving as a flight instructor.

The plane crashed 30 minutes after taking off from the Hatzerim Base near Beersheba. It was flying at 400 feet when it hit a sand dune. The IAF immediately grounded all Zukits and set up an inquiry.

Initial reports suggest human error was to blame.

The Fougas entered IAF service in 1960 and are set to be replaced next year with the arrival of new US-made T-6 Texan aircraft.

In September, a Cobra attack helicopter crashed during a training flight in northern Israel killing two veteran reserve pilots. The cause of that crash has yet to be determined and the IAF's cobra squadrons have remained grounded since the incident.

Last updated: 4:31pm, January 8 2009