Fighter pilots’ bodies, second wreck located

Search parties on the upper slopes of Mount Pelion in central Greece yesterday located the wreckage of the second air force fighter that crashed in the area on Thursday, as well as the remains of all four airmen in the two jets. The cause of the twin crash, which involved two twin-seater F-16 aircraft returning to an air base at Nea Anchialos, southwest of Volos, after training in interception maneuvers, is still unclear. An investigation is under way. The US-made planes from 111 Combat Wing, part of a now-aging batch delivered to Greece in 1989, disappeared off air force radar screens around 3 p.m, after an hour in the air. The wreckage of the first jet was found around 5.15 p.m. at an altitude of 1,067 meters some 20 kilometers east of Volos, just north of the village of Aghios Lavrentios, near Milies. Thick mist in the area hampered the search effort, and the second wreck was located yesterday morning, as well as the pilots’ mangled remains. According to initial estimates – based on the altitude and the location of the crash site – the first pilot may have veered off course, and into the mountain, while the second jet clung to his tail. The dead air force officers were identified as Ioannis Kommatas, 37, Athanassios Sioutas, 33, Georgios Antonopoulos, 28, and Georgios Lykoudis, 28. Thursday’s accident brought to 46 the number of airmen killed in accidents in 58 major crashes since 1991. This is generally attributed more to the continuous strain Greece’s elite fighter pilots are subjected to – Greek jets are often forced to mobilize several times a week to chase off Turkish military aircraft violating national air space, a process that usually results in fierce simulated dogfights – rather than to poor training.