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IDF concludes November training plane crash likely due to low altitude stall

Military says unspecified circumstances preceding the fatal crash were never experienced before, rules out technical failure

The site of a plane crash in which two Israeli soldiers were killed near Kibbutz Mishmar Hanegev in southern Israel, on November 24, 2020. (Dudu Greenspan/Flash90)
The site of a plane crash in which two Israeli soldiers were killed near Kibbutz Mishmar Hanegev in southern Israel, on November 24, 2020. (Dudu Greenspan/Flash90)

The Israel Defense Forces on Wednesday released a final report on the fatal crash of a military training plane in November, finding a “very high probability” the aircraft stalled during a low altitude maneuver, causing the pilots to lose control.

The stall likely did not result from a technical failure but rather a set of circumstances that the pilots had not trained for, according to the military.

The November 24 crash killed Cpl. Lihu Ben-Bassa, 19, and his trainer, Maj. (res.) Itay Zayden, 42, when the small Grob G 120 “Snunit” trainer plane hit the ground near Kibbutz Mishmar Hanegev in southern Israel.

An IDF statement said the circumstances in the moments before the crash, specifically at such a low altitude, had not been experienced before, without elaborating. The plane’s manufacturer and other operators around the world were also unfamiliar with the danger of a stall under such circumstances, the army said.

The victims of the IAF plane crash on November 24, 2020 — Maj. Itai Zayden (R) and Cpl. Lihu Ben-Bassa (L). (Facebook)

Investigators noted that low altitude flights have long been performed as part of air force training, but the phenomenon that led the plane to crash had previously not been encountered. They also said the plane had been well-maintained prior to the flight.

“The findings indicate that in very high probability the crash did not result from a technical problem and the plane was usable throughout the flight,” the statement said.

Air Force chief Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin said investigators “turned over every stone” to determine the cause of the crash.

“Every accident is preventable and the lessons from the crash will be learned in the force,” Norkin said in the statement.

The report was the third to be released by the military since the crash, after which Norkin ordered the IAF’s fleet of “Snunit” planes grounded for over a month.

The crash was the first such fatal incident since 2008, when a trainer and cadet were killed aboard a different type of training plane.

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