Pilot dies in fatal military plane crash, investigation underway

On Monday another fatal accident involving a military aircraft happened in the Czech Republic. This is the twenty fourth fatality in a string of airforce accidents in the past decade, which have claimed the lives of some of the country's elite pilots.

L-159, photo: CTKL-159, photo: CTK A Czech airforce pilot was killed on Monday when his L-159 crashed in a military training zone near the town of Pribram in Central Bohemia. The accident occurred around a quarter past twelve in clear skies. The Jince training area, where the crash took place, has been closed off and a military commission has been set up to investigate the cause. Defence Minister Jaroslav Tvridik and the army's Chief of Staff Pavel Stefka flew to the site Monday afternoon.

The investigation has been hampered by almost fifty centimetres of snow on the ground, and it took investigators seven hours to recover the aircraft's flight recorder, or black-box, which is vital in the investigation. The manufacturer of the L-159 subsonic jet, Areo Vodochody, which is the largest producer of military aircraft in the Czech Republic, has offered to help in the investigation. Antonin Jakubse is the company's director:

"Aero Vodochody is prepared to participate in the investigation. We have people and documentation which could be of use. We hope that the Ministry of Defence, the army and the airforce will allow Aero Vodochody to be a part of the investigation team."

The Czech airforce's sixty planes have had a history of problems over the last decade. In September 2001 a Czech airforce jet crashed and the airforce's L-159s were temporarily grounded due to unspecified technical problems. However, the L-159 subsonic jet is popular all over the world as both a trainer and light combat aircraft, and Defence Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik recently tried to sell the aircraft to India in early February.