2 Dead in Fighter Jet Accident

2 Dead in Fighter Jet Accident

(RightWing.org) – Two Greek airmen have died during a training exercise over the Mediterranean Sea. Their US-made F-4 Phantom crashed on Monday, and the body of one crewman was quickly found. On Wednesday, the search for the second came to a sad end when his remains were also located.

On the morning of January 30, a pair of Hellenic Air Force McDonnell-Douglas F-4E Phantom II fighters took off from Andravida airbase in southern Greece and headed out over the Mediterranean for a low-level training exercise. Around 10:30 am, one aircraft, piloted by Captain Efstathios Tsitlakidis with Lieutenant Marios-Michael Turoutsikas as Weapon Systems Officer, declared an emergency and asked for permission to eject. It’s unclear if the crew managed to abandon the aircraft, which crashed shortly after the call. A rescue operation was immediately launched, and Turoutsikas’s body was found near the wreck. Tsitlakidis’s body was recovered two days later.

The F-4 Phantom II was produced from 1958 to 1983, with the first entering service with the US Navy in 1961. It went on to be adopted by the US Marine Corps and then the US Air Force, as well as eleven NATO and allied countries. With 5,195 aircraft built, it was the most common western jet fighter of the Cold War. F-4s saw combat with the US in Vietnam, Israel in multiple Middle Eastern wars and Iran during the Iran-Iraq war and the ongoing fight against ISIS.

A big, heavy aircraft, the Phantom nevertheless achieved high-performance thanks to its two powerful engines. Engineers described it as “a serial offender against the laws of aerodynamics,” and crews gave it nicknames like the Lead Sled, Old Smokey (for its notoriously dirty J79 engines), the Iron Pig and Old Double Ugly.

Despite its reliance on raw engine power to stay in the air and an appearance that made one pilot call it “the last plane that looked like it was made to kill somebody,” it was popular with crews and brutally efficient in combat — it was also called “the world’s largest distributor of MiG parts” in honor of the many Soviet-built aircraft it destroyed.

Today, late-model F-4E Phantoms are still operated by Greece, Turkey and Iran. It’s an old but still effective and reliable warplane. Flying fast jets is dangerous, though, and even the legendary Phantom can’t always bring its crew home safely. Sadly, these Greek airmen won’t be the last to pay the price for maintaining freedom.

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