Israel grounds fighter jets after midair near-collision

Last Updated: Sun, Oct 14, 2012 16:40 hrs

Jerusalem, Oct 14 (IANS) The Israel Air Force (IAF) Sunday grounded all fighter jet squadrons after a midair near collision last week capped a series of serious accidents over the last year.

IAF chief Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel imposed the order after two aircraft almost collided Thursday, Xinhua reported citing Israel Radio. Investigators said the two planes exceeded the mandatory "safety envelope" during maneuvers.

An Iair force source said the near-miss was due to "pilot error".

While regular operations and flights would continue, instructors were ordered to refresh fighter squadron pilots on adhering to air safety procedures and policies during mock air combat before taking back to the skies on Monday.

The Israeli Air Force has suffered from a number of deadly accidents and safety incidents in the last few years, including an emergency landing by a fighter jet and refueling plane earlier this year when the fuel hose hit and cracked the war plane's canopy.

The squadrons were grounded for two days last year after a fighter jet clipped a tree while landing at a northern airbase. The pilot was able to land the aircraft despite the damage, according to The Times of Israel news site.

In July, 2010, an Israeli Sikorsky CH-53 Sea Stallion crashed while on a training flight in Romania's Carpathian mountains, during a joint Romanian-Israeli military exercise.

Four Israeli pilots, two Israeli aircraft mechanics and a Romanian liaison officer were killed when the helicopter slammed into a fog-shrouded mountain. Results of a probe showed that the accidents was most likely due to pilot error.

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