Friends and relatives gathered Friday in Moshav Mazor, east of Tel Aviv, to bury an Israeli Air Force pilot who was killed when his F-16 fighter jet crash-landed Wednesday.
Cohen Nov was described as a capable and distinguished pilot, recently named deputy commander of the Atalef, or Bat, squadron.
He leaves behind a pregnant wife and one daughter, as well as two sisters and his parents.
A second crew member of the crashed jet, the plane’s navigator, ejected from the plane and sustained some light injuries.
According to the IDF, both the pilot and navigator ejected from the plane, but questions have been raised as to when exactly Cohen Nov managed to bail out and if he was still alive at the time of ejection.
IAF chief Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel ordered an investigation into the incident to be led by a colonel, the army said.
In 2013, an F-16I, known in Israel as the “Sufa,” or “storm,” crashed into the Mediterranean Sea, leading to the temporary grounding of the entire fleet of the IDF’s F-16I aircraft as a safety measure. Eshel did not impose such a measure in this case.
The jet may have been flying “asymmetrically,” according to one expert, with ordnance on one wing but not the other.
Eran Ramot, a former fighter pilot and researcher at the Fisher Institute for Air and Strategic Studies, said the asymmetry was currently the leading theory for what caused the wreck.
However, that alone should not have caused a crash, as planes and pilots routinely fly with this imbalance, Ramot told The Times of Israel over the phone.
“When a plane goes on an operational sortie it carries ordnance on its wings. During the operational activity, it apparently released ordnance from one wing — you don’t release from both at once, you release one after another — and was left with ordnance on the other,” Ramot said.
“From there it returned to land. I don’t know why [it didn’t drop the ordnance from the second wing], maybe it didn’t need to or there was some issue with its release,” he said.
Flying with extra weight on one wing is not typically a problem as aircraft are generally capable of compensating for the asymmetry by themselves and pilots are also taught how to fly in such a scenario manually.
During landing that asymmetry can be somewhat more problematic, as the plane flies at a lower speed and thus has less air pushing it up, Ramot said.
However, if the plane or the pilot experiences difficulty while flying or it looks like there will be a problem landing with that asymmetry, the solution is fairly simple — dropping the bomb, usually over a body of water, Ramot said.
That did not happen in this case, though it does appear that Cohen Nov and the navigator experienced difficulties in landing, as according to an Army Radio report they made a pass over the airfield before coming in for the landing.
It was during that second landing attempt that the crash occurred.