An IAF pilot ejected from his Skyhawk warplane Thursday morning due to a technical malfunction. The engine caught fire and the pilot abandoned the plane which plummeted into the sea. An air force team located him and rescued him unharmed about 5 kilometers off the Ashdod shore.
The IDF Spokesperson's Office reported that the pilot acted according to regulations. He was taken to hospital after being rescued.
Israel Air Force Commander Major-General Eliezer Shakedi appointed a committee of inquiry to look into the accident. According to an initial inquiry, the fighter pilot identified a malfunction in the Skyhawk's engine, which gave out shortly thereafter.
The pilot initially attempted to make a emergency landing in a nearby military base but realized this would be impossible and guided the plane towards the open sea, after which he ejected. Following the incident, the army's entire Skyhawk array has been grounded and naval forces are aiding in the search after the remains of the abandoned Skyhawk.
Skyhawks are used mostly at the air force pilot training school. Following Thursday's accident, the Skyhawk squadron will most probably all be grounded, at least until the circumstances have been investigated.
Skyhawk aircraft (Courtesy of Israel Air Force website)
In 1998, a Skyhawk crashed during a practice flight in the Mount Hebron area. Two crew members were lightly injured.
Another accident occurred in February 2004 in the same region when a fire broke out in the cabin of a Skyhawk and spread quickly through the aircraft. The pilot also ejected and landed safely.
IAF sources said that Skyhawks were considered very reliable aircraft and malfunctions were uncommon.
Aircraft historyThe Skyhawks were introduced into the IAF in the 1970s. It was the first fighter plane that the US agreed to sell to Israel. It is a US-manufactured single-seat attack aircraft used for attack and for assisting ground forces. The IAF website writes that the aircraft was purchased in 1967 following the French Embargo imposed on Israel, putting off delivery of the 50 Mirage J5 that had been purchased from France.
A new model of the aircraft was developed for Israel, the A-4H, that had different equipment, carrying capacity and included a drogue parachute. Dozens of this model were put into service and during the War of Attrition, 1968-1970, they were the main IAF attack aircraft. The aircraft carried out many attacks during the Yom Kippur War and later, at the First Lebanon War.
In 1973 the A-4N was also brought into service. This is the model used today. It has a bigger engine; the cockpit is larger; it has 33 mm cannons and better maneuvering capabilities.