Two British pilots eject before jet crashes at NATO air base
July 21, 2009
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan — Two British pilots ejected safely as their fighter jet crashed upon takeoff Monday morning, the second crash at NATO’s main air base in southern Afghanistan in two days.
The two pilots of the Tornado GR-4 sustained injuries but were treated at a military hospital and released.
There was no immediate indication why the jet crashed.
"All we know for sure is that it is not attributable to insurgent activity," said Capt. Glen Parent, a spokesman at the base for NATO’s International Security Assistance Force.
The jet crashed at about 7:20 a.m., close to a highway just outside the perimeter of the airfield. Afghan security forces closed the highway temporarily for safety reasons, and all people in the immediate vicinity were made to leave, a NATO statement on the incident said.
The crash was the second to occur at the sprawling air base in two days. Sixteen people died and another five were injured Sunday morning when a Russian Mi-8 civilian helicopter crashed upon takeoff at the airfield. Although the cause of that crash is still under investigation, insurgent fire was not to blame, NATO officials said.
Several of the injured from Sunday’s crash have been treated and released, said Parent. All of the victims were civilian contractors, NATO said. Russian-made helicopters and cargo planes with civilian crews from the former Soviet bloc are used frequently to ferry supplies and civilian workers to remote bases around Afghanistan in support of the NATO-led mission.
Parent said no additional safety steps were being taken or were under review in the aftermath of the two crashes at the airfield. Both incidents are under investigation and no link between the two has been established, he said.
Monday’s incident was the latest in a string of aviation accidents in Afghanistan in the past week.
A U.S. Army helicopter made an emergency landing Sunday morning in eastern Afghanistan’s Kunar province, according to U.S. forces in Kabul. The number of people aboard was not released, but all were being treated at a military hospital, a U.S. statement said. What forced the helicopter down is unclear, but there were no insurgents active in the area at the time, the military said.
Two U.S. Air Force pilots were killed early Saturday when their F-15E fighter jet crashed in eastern Afghanistan. The Defense Department identifed the pair late Sunday as Capt. Thomas J. Gramith, 27, of Eagan, Minn., and Capt. Mark R. McDowell, 26, of Colorado Springs, Colo. Both were assigned to the 336th Fighter Squadron, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C.
There was no hostile fire involved, and the crash is under investigation, the U.S. military said.
Eight Ukrainian crewmembers were killed last week when an Mi-26 civilian helicopter crashed near the town of Sangin in southern Afghanistan’s Helmand province. The Taliban claimed to have shot down the helicopter, but NATO officials have not confirmed the claim and say the crash is under investigation.
And on July 6, two Canadian airmen and one British soldier were killed when a Canadian CH-146 Griffon helicopter crashed upon takeoff at a NATO camp in Zabul province, about 50 miles northeast of Kandahar airfield. Insurgent fire was not to blame, officials said at the time.