F-16 Fighting Falcon News

Late Israeli PM's grandson confirmed dead in F-16 Crash

March 28, 2000 (by Lieven Dewitte) - Israel Air Force Major Yonatan Begin, grandson of late Prime Minister Menachem Begin, was confirmed dead by pathology officials Wednesday night after the F- 16 fighter he piloted crashed into the sea two days ago.

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The body remains of Yonatan Begin, and his navigator Lieutenant Lior Harari, a 23-year-old young officer, was finally identified.

Yonatan, 30, was a grandson of Menachem Begin, who was Israel's prime minister from 1977 to 1983 and won a Nobel Peace prize for signing a historic peace treaty with Egypt in 1979. Menachem Begin died in 1992.

Yonatan Begin and Harari took off from the force base in Ramat David Monday night for a routine training flight with their two- seat F-16 fighter. About 8 p. m. local time (1800 GMT), the plane lost contacts with the control tower and disappeared from the radar screen about 20 kilometers off the coast of Atlit, a town 70 kilometers north of Tel Aviv. As such it is believed that the plane had plunged into the Mediterranean Sea.

Major General Eitan Ben Eliahu, commander of air force, appointed a commission Monday night to investigate the reason for the accident, which remains a mystery according to air force officials.

The last contact about 10-15 seconds prior to disappearance of the place showed no problems on the jet and the weather conditions and visibility were good at the time. Apparently, something occurred too quickly for the crew to give a report or gain control of the plane, and even left no time for the airmen to eject themselves from the aircraft.

Although senior air force officials refused to jump to conclusions over the cause, some experienced fighter pilots indicated that it may be due to "spatial disorientation", commonly known as vertigo. According to these pilots, vertigo is one of the most difficult areas to train for. Local media even quoted one officer involved with flight safety as saying:" There are two types of pilots: those who have had vertigo and those who are going to get it. "

It cannot be determined exactly what took place until the aircraft is located, as there are also possibilities that the crash was due to engine or mechanical failure.

There had been a series of crashes involving the U.S. -made F-16 fighter jets. An F-16 crashed in the Negev desert on February 2 during a routine training mission, apparently due to the failure of its engine.