Family members and friends of the two pilots killed in an early morning helicopter crash reacted with shock to the tragic deaths on Tuesday, saying they were both highly expert pilots.
Lt. Col. Noam Ron, 49, from Oranit, and Maj. Erez Flexer, 31, from Haifa, were killed Tuesday morning when their Cobra helicopter gunship crashed near Revadim, in the south of Israel. The two are to be buried on Wednesday.
An initial investigation has revealed that a technical failure, likely the rear rotor disconnecting from the aircraft, caused the crash.
The veteran pilots, who were on a routine flight exercise, did not radio in any word of technical difficulties. The pilots even reported that they had “six minutes to landing,” before losing touch with command headquarters.
“Noam was a great man who served 60 and sometimes even 120 days of reserve duty a year,” Ron’s brother Yoni told Ynet Tuesday. “Like now, he always flew when we all went to sleep; I didn’t even know he was in the reserves.”
“I heard about the accident when representatives from the army came to my house, accompanied by my parents, who had already received the news. My dad told me to open the gate and already I realized that the most terrible thing had happened,” he said.
Noam Ron lived in Oranit with his wife and three daughters. His youngest daughter was named after his brother, Eyal, a helicopter pilot, who was killed 16 years ago in an accident during a trip to the Judean Desert.
Ron recalled the last time he had seen Noam and stated that he never had any fear of his brother getting in harm’s way.
“Last Friday, we celebrated one of our nephews’ birthday. We all met, we ate and were happy together. We did not live in constant fear that something like this would happen. It is like when people take the wheel and drive, it is not a fear that you live with,” he said.
Udi Salant, Erez Flexer’s brother in law, told Ynet of the late pilot’s unique character. “Erez is one of those people that can be called the salt of the earth,” Salant said.
“He was a man of journeys, terrain , tents, the Land of Israel. He made trips across the country by foot. In addition, he loved carpentry. He would collect wood and furniture, repair them and build furniture again. Just last Saturday we finished building a computer table stand together. The entire roof his house is full of trees.”
Flexer studied physics at the Tel Aviv University and was set to begin working on his doctorate. He is survived by his wife and four-month-old baby, Uri.
Mickey Bar, a close friend of Ron who served with him, told Ynet that Ron “was a very experienced pilot, a veteran in the ranks. He started off as a Cobra helicopter pilot and continued to fly them. He has an operational track record and he took part in many operational activities.”
Bar also asserted that the accident was not due to human error. “Ron trained generations of pilots,” Bar said. “I do not think there was a problem with the qualifications of the pilots.”
President Shimon Peres, in France on Tuesday, addressed the tragic accident as well and said that he was pained and bereaved. “Cobra pilots are very brave pilots, as they fly the helicopter at a lower altitude than other aircraft,” Peres said.
The president said that as soon as he was back in Israel, he would visit the grieving families.