Tuesday, November 2, 2010

2 crew members killed in Romania in jet crash

The Associated Press
Monday, November 1, 2010

BUCHAREST, Romania -- A fighter jet crashed during a training exercise Monday, killing two experienced pilots, the Romanian defense ministry said.

The Defense Ministry said in a statement that the MiG-21 Lancer went down, instantly killing the pilots, near the Transylvanian town of Campia Turzii. It said the crew was on a weather reconnaissance flight before taking part in a pilot instruction flight.

Eyewitnesses said the jet crashed into a tree and hit a fence before breaking into pieces.

The defense ministry identified one of the victims as Laurentiu Chirita, one of the country's most experienced fighter pilots who had taken part in international missions, in Sweden, Italy and the U.S.

In 2007 he headed a Romanian mission in the Baltics and was awarded a medal by the Lithuanian air force. The other pilot was Sorin Avram who had 1,300 hours flight experience, of which 900 were flying MiGs.

In the last 20 years, a total of 17 Russian-made MiGs have been destroyed in crashes in Romania, said Marius Iacob, Romania's chief prosecutor.

Defense Minister Gabriel Oprea wanted to replace aging MiG-21 Lancers with secondhand F-16 planes, but authorities said earlier this year the recession-mired country could not afford it.

The Defense Ministry said an investigation was under way into the causes of the crash.

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