March 29, 1999 (by Lieven Dewitte) - Israel halted training flights of some of its F-16s in the wake of plane malfunctions in Israel and the United States. Dozens of late model F-16s were ordered grounded after an Israeli pilot ejected from his plane during training on Sunday over what one air force official described as "engine lock".
The jet crashed into the Mediterranean and the pilot parachuted to safety.
The incident happened in the more advanced group of planes. Israel
grounded them until they can check all the engines. This process is expected to take several days. Israel has about 250 F-16s, according to reports published abroad.
The plane forms the backbone of Israel's air force, which carries out frequent raids on Lebanon. Dozens of early model F-16s were already ordered grounded in Israel on Friday after a student pilot in the U.S. air force crashed his single-seat F-16 into the desert in Arizona in the fifth accident at the training base since October. Those planes however were back in flight on Tuesday.
Engine problems in the F-16 have been targeted in the United States as the cause of at least two recent crashes. An Israeli air force official said the accidents would not affect Israel's decision-making in a tender for dozens of new planes.
Lockheed's F-16 is being considered against Boeing Co. 's F-15I in the competition. The contract is expected to be awarded in May.