Home Air Israel grounds Atalef helicopter fleet after deadly crash in the Med

Israel grounds Atalef helicopter fleet after deadly crash in the Med

IAF Atalef operations
Illustration: Israeli defense forces file photo of an Atalef helicopter

Two Israeli Defense Force officers were killed and another moderately injured in the crash of an AS565 Panther helicopter on Monday.

Also known as “Atalef” in the Israeli Air Force service, the helicopter crashed in the Mediterranean Sea, off the coast of Haifa, during a training flight.

The air force said two pilots and an “aerial observer” were on board the helicopter at the time of the crash.

Members of Israeli police and the Shayetet 13 marine commando unit rescued the crew and administered first aid at the scene. The pilots were declared dead after resuscitation efforts, while the aerial observer was evacuated to a hospital.

The service identified the deceased aircrew members as 38-year-old Lt. Col. Erez Sachyani, Deputy Commander of Ramat David Airbase, and 27-year-old Maj. Chen Fogel, Deputy Commander of the 193rd Squadron.

Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin, the chief of the Israeli Air Force, ordered the temporary discontinuation of training flights in the IAF, in addition to grounding the Atalef fleet of helicopters.

An investigation into the incident is already underway.

The AS565 Panther helicopters are flown by the Israeli Air Force for maritime missions. The 25-year-old airframes are poised to be replaced with the SH-60F Seahawk helicopters in the coming years.