Air force halts training flights after near misses

In two separate incidents, F-16 jets pass closer to each other than permitted by IAF regulations

The air force halted all training flights Wednesday following two incidents earlier in the week in which fighter jets nearly crashed into each other.

IAF chief Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel ordered planes grounded for 24 hours and called a meeting of all combat squadron commanders to review safety regulations. Despite the grounding, regular operational flights will continue as scheduled.

In both of the near miss incidents, F-16 jets taking part in training exercises flew closer to one other than permitted by safety regulations, the army said. According to Army Radio, one of the close encounters was only discovered during the debrief after the flight.

Last week, in a separate incident, a disaster was averted after a fighter pilot suffered a bout of vertigo mid-flight. The plane’s navigator assumed control of the jet until the pilot regained his composure and landed the aircraft.

A day later, a Blackhawk army helicopter was forced to make an emergency landing in the West Bank following a serious technical failure.

The chopper landed south of the West Bank city of Hebron. There were no injuries in the incident and due to the sensitive location of the landing site, the military quickly sent a team of technicians to the scene as well as additional soldiers to guard the perimeter and repel any potentially hostile crowds.

In October 2012, Eshel took a similar measure when he ordered planes out of the air for a day following a series of near misses.

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