The Ukrainian authorities announced today, Saturday, that three Ukrainian Air Force pilots, including a decorated officer, died on Friday in a collision between two Ukrainian planes.
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This incident represents a major setback for Kiev, which is seeking to obtain American F-16 aircraft to strengthen its fleet that dates back to the Soviet era, and to strengthen its counter-attack against the Russian army.
“We offer our condolences to the families of the victims. It is a painful and irreparable loss for all of us,” the Ukrainian Air Force said, describing the accident as “terrible.”
The accident occurred in the Zhitomir region of northern Ukraine, and two L-39 combat training aircraft were involved, it said, adding that the investigation is underway.
Air Force spokesman Yuri Ignat said one of the pilots killed, Andrei Pilshchikov, known by the nickname “Joyce”, was a young officer of “extreme knowledge and great talent”.
“Andrei Pilshchikov devoted his short but very brilliant life to combat aviation, and dreamed of seeing F-16s in the skies over Ukraine,” he said in a tribute posted on social media.
“You were more than just a friend. Rest in peace, you did so much for us.”