IAF officials estimate that the majority of fighter pilots who have flown in F-16I's (Storm) have been exposed to the carcinogenic substance which was discovered in the cockpit of one of the aircraft. The air force stresses however that those exposed have a very low risk of developing the disease.
The pilots in question will undergo special tests to monitor any possible cancerous developments as part of their routine physicals. At present time the carcinogenic material has not been found in other jets.
Air Force Commander Maj. Gen. Eliezer Shkedi grounded all F-16I aircraft in flight school training programs after the substance was discovered following complaints from several pilots regarding a pungent odor in the cockpit of one of the newer additions to the fleet. Experts who investigated their charges later found a high concentration of formaldehyde in the plane that was singled out.
All other aircraft of the same make were cleared, however they remain grounded until more rigorous testing can be conducted.
The Storm aircraft were introduced into the IAF some four years ago, during the tenure of former Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz – a prominent airforce commander who eventually headed the IAF before being appointed chief of staff.
The agreement to acquire the advanced fighter planes was signed in 2000 and eventually led to the acquisition of over 100 aircraft.