An air force F-16 fighter crashed into a field near Volos soon after takeoff on a training flight yesterday from the military base of Nea Anchialos. The pilot ejected safely. An air force statement said the single-seater jet crashed two miles north of the base just after 1 p.m. «following a problem with the engine.» It did not elaborate. Initial reports had suggested a bird was sucked into the fighter’s air intake, causing engine failure. The pilot, Captain Theodoros Pliatsikas, ejected without mishap and was picked up by an air force rescue helicopter. It was the air force’s first loss of the year, and the sixth of the initial 40 F-16 Block 30 jets bought in the late 1980s to go down. Together with the French Mirage 2000, the F-16 forms the backbone of Greece’s fighter fleet that almost daily engages in aerial jousts with Turkish jets over the Aegean. At the beginning of last month, the first six out of a total of 60 upgraded F-16s – the block 52+ model – arrived at the base of 115 Fighter Wing in western Crete. Another 30 are due to be delivered by Christmas, while the last 24 will arrive next April.