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Airforce pilot dies after helicopter crash

A pilot has been killed, and his co-pilot seriously injured, after their A-model Apache helicopter crashed.

Maj. (res.) David Zohar, 43, from Haifa and the Lieutenant serving with him were returning to the Ramon Air Base at around 9pm after a routine training flight when their aircraft suffered a technical malfunction. They continued to approach for landing, but their helicopter crashed between the two runways on the base. Maj. Zohar was killed, and the Lieutenant underwent surgery overnight and the Soroka medical centre in Beer Sheva. He remains in a serious condition, and his name has not yet been released.

Both men were members of the air force’s 190th Squadron, also known as the Magic Touch Squadron, which flies the AH-64A Peten (Cobra) model of Apache helicopter.

Following the crash, commander of the Israeli Airforce (IAF) Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel ordered the formation of a team of experts led by an airforce Colonel to investigate the crash. Eshel has also grounded the entire Apache fleet until the investigation is complete.

The helicopters were only recommissioned last month, after a crack was discovered in the back rotor blade in a different type of Apache helicopter. An initial investigation has found that this was not the cause of yesterday’s crash. An army spokesperson said that Monday’s flight was part of gradually returning the helicopters to full service.

Due to a history of helicopter accidents, the Air Force has strict safety procedures in place. Last month, Eshel ordered a study day to be held in all squadrons to emphasise the issue of safety weak points in flight.

Israel relies on its Apache attack helicopters to provide close air support for ground troops, while other types of helicopters are used for troop movement and supply transportation.

In March 2013, two Cobra helicopter reserve pilots – Lt. Col. Noam Ron and Maj. Erez Flexer – were killed in a crash in the Revadim area, south of Gedera. In September 2008, two pilots were killed in a Cobra helicopter crash in the fields of Kibbutz Ginegar in the Jezreel Valley.