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Air Force suspends training after jet almost crashes during exercise

Pilot of F-15 apparently became distracted by instrument panel and did not notice he was heading for ground until navigator pulled the plane up; incident being investigated

This December 29, 2016 photo shows an Israeli Air Force F-15 plane in flight during a graduation ceremony for new pilots in the Hatzerim air force base near the city of Beersheba. (AP/Ariel Schalit)
This December 29, 2016 photo shows an Israeli Air Force F-15 plane in flight during a graduation ceremony for new pilots in the Hatzerim air force base near the city of Beersheba. (AP/Ariel Schalit)

The Israel Defense Forces Air Force announced it was suspending training exercises late Wednesday after a fighter jet almost crashed during a drill.

According to the military, the incident occurred during a training exercise on dealing with air and ground threats, “when the pilot turned his attention to the aircraft’s screen and did not notice that he had lost height and was heading into the ground.”

A disaster was averted when the jet’s navigator realized what was happening and pulled the fighter out of its dive.

“Due to the quick and professional identification, both of them emerged from the danger unscathed,” the army said.

The IDF did not identify the jet, however, the Kan public broadcaster said it was one of the Air Force’s F-15i fighters.

The army said training exercises were called off until the incident was investigated and lessons learned.

Last year, a “Snunit” training aircraft carrying a pilot’s course cadet, Cpl. Lihu Ben-Bassa, 19, and his trainer, Maj. (res.) Itay Zayden, 42, crashed near Kibbutz Mishmar Hanegev in southern Israel, killing both of them.

The investigation into the deadly crash failed to determine what caused the aircraft to go down.

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