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2 Israeli fighter pilots escaped from burning plane in December accident — report

Kan publishes new details of incident involving F-15I jet after it landed without one of its wheels

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)

During a training flight accident last year, a pair of Israeli Air Force pilots escaped from a burning aircraft after making an emergency landing, according to a report Thursday.

Kan news aired new details on the December incident at Hatzerim air base in southern Israel, which led to the temporary suspension of training flights.

According to Kan, the F-15I pilots noticed that the fighter jet’s right wheel had not deployed properly prior to landing, a fact that they radioed into the control tower.

“I’m reiterating the policy: Crew safety comes before the aircraft,” Brig. Gen. Guy Davidson, the commander of the air base, can be heard telling the pilots in a recording of their communications.

In an interview for the report, Davidson described the malfunction as incredibly rare.

After weighing a number of options, including using the ejector seats, the report said the pilots decided to make an emergency landing using only two of the plane’s three wheels.

“Verify that the [rescue] teams are ready and waiting and that everything is prepared,” one of the pilots told the control tower before landing.

As the plane touched down, it turned on its right side and caught fire, with the pilots quickly escaping from the cockpit as firefighting teams doused the aircraft, according to the report.

No one was injured.

An Israeli F-15I fighter jet (photo credit: Tsahi Ben-Ami/Flash 90)
An Israeli F-15I fighter jet. (Tsahi Ben-Ami/ Flash 90)

The report said the pilots have resumed flying, while the plane is supposed to reenter service in the coming months.

The incident came weeks after an F-15I almost crashed during a drill.

In 2020, a “Snunit” training aircraft carrying a flight school 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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