The pilot of the F-4 Phantom has died after the fighter jet crashed in the Ionian Sea in western Greece, the Hellenic Air Force (HAF) confirmed early Wednesday afternoon.
Co-pilot Marios Touroutsikas, 29, was confirmed dead after his body was recovered late Monday afternoon.
The F-4 Phantom jet crashed into the sea on January 30 during a training flight, some 25 nautical miles south of the airport of Andravida, with two airmen on board.
Authorities were investigating the causes of the crash.
Greece first acquired the US-made F-4, or Phantom fighter jets, in 1974.
Technical Failure or Human Error?
Pilots Tsiklakidis and Turoutsikas were participating in a “low sea” exercise with the F-4 flying without additional fuel tanks so that they have room for more maneuvers and can turn better.
Pilots’ bodies in such exercises are reportedly exposed to many acceleration forces G’s, perhaps almost as much as if there involved in aerial combat.
At 10:30 on the morning of Monday January 30, 15 minutes after taking off from the Andravida base, the F-4 Phantom fighter jet crashed into the sea.
According to media, the National Defense Ministry has so far do not respond to the question of whether the detection of one of the two parachutes means that the pilots tried at the last minute to use the ejection seat but did not succeed.
Senior military sources told protothema.gr as of 11:30 Monday morning that the pilots did not have time to leave the Phantom before the crash.
According to protothema information, seconds before the F-4 Phantom crashed into the sea, the pilots performed a tight turn while moving at a very low altitude above the sea.
At exactly what height they were flying, i.e. how many feet above the sea, is something that the pilots of “bravo 1” i.e. the leading Phantom who had the role of the leader of the pair will testify to the commission of inquiry.
What may have happened and the Phantom crashed into the sea is currently unknown.
No communication of the pilots with the Operation Center has been recorded, no last message seems to have been sent by squadron commander Tsitlakidis and sub-squadronman Turoutsikas.
It is also very difficult in the conditions of the “low sea” exercise, since in such extreme conditions the pilots do not waste time pressing the communication button, their first concern is to save the aircraft and then to be rescued. notes PrTHema.
Could a mechanical failure have occurred? Could both of the Phantom’s turbojet engines have lost thrust? Nothing is out of the question, not even the possibility of an aerodynamic failure that could be fatal in the extreme conditions of the low flight that the two pilots were performing.
Defense analyst, Kostas Iatridis, a former pilot who survived a similar crash in 1984 told state broadcaster ERT
“I abandoned when my plane caught fire at night in 1984 and we were at sea for about six hours until a boat came to rescue us. I know what it means to abandon a plane, as well as what it means when you fly on a realistic basis, in difficult exercises.”
Referring to the low flight of the two F-4 pilots he clarified that they usually fly at 300 feet above sea level.
“When you’re flying at high speeds and making turns, maneuvers and with lots off G’s all the time, there’s the possibility of an accident. There may be another problem, such as a failure of the steering wheels,”Iatridis, pointing out that this remains to be clarified.
According to Air Force sources, the “difficult” exercise requires a lot of attention, involves risks and requires vigilance and dedication every second. It is “difficult” since the fighter develops speeds that exceed 800 kilometers a few meters above the surface of the sea.
The formation is led by “Bravo 1”, who is also the leader. Always flying slightly lower is “Bravo 2”, he methodically steers it through maneuvers and sharp turns to avoid detection by enemy radars. So with a speed of 800 kilometers and a distance of 100 meters from the sea, the slightest thing happens, the operators have only 2 – at most – seconds to react until the fighter reaches the surface of the sea and crashes.
“During a long turn and while we were flying at about 300ft I turned my head to look at No2 but I didn’t see him. I looked down again and saw an explosion, a fire in the sea,” said the head of the formation, unable to explain exactly what happened off Katakolo and the F-4 with Tsitlakidis and Touroutsikas crashed into the sea.
Retired Air Marshal Evangelos Georgousis spoke of “difficult and violent maneuvers” during the low-sea exercises.
Speaking to CNN Greece, Georgousis said that time and speed play a catalytic role in a “low-sea flight.aaa’
“Because we have to consider that when an aircraft is flying at 450 miles at 300 feet, the time available to the flyer from impact with the ground is 1-2 seconds. It is not more. Therefore, his thinking and training helps him to anticipate the actions that must be taken in the next phase of the flight and this is how it works, this is how he is trained”, he emphasizes, pointing out, however, that there are unsettled factors.
“Sometimes, though, there are unsettled factors that can either derail him or create a problem for him to commit to that particular flight.”
Video: Indicative low-sea flight by the HAF
Search to continue to jet wreckage
Search and Rescue operation SAR may have been concluded, but searches continue to detect as many wreckage possible that will shed light into the causes of the F-4 crash.
The hydrographic – oceanographic ship “Nautilus” of the Greek Navy expected to be deployed in the area of Katakolo and carrying out search in some 1,000-meter depth.
According to media information, however, “Nautilus” is expected to sail in the area by the end of the week as it is currently damaged and is expected to be repaired immediately.
“Nautilus” has a special sonar that can catch fuselage or debris of the F-4 Phantom on the bottom of the sea.
According to the same information by parapolitika.gr, the General Staff is likely to seek assistance from other countries that have the capability for underwater operations at very great depths. It is noted that the USA has already been offered for research.
Experts suggest, that even if one of the two engines is found then it confirmed if it was in operation before the F-4 crashed.
The same experts do not have much hope that the fighter jet recorder will show any valuable date, as they assume it will have been destroyed.
Condolences to their families. May they Rest in Peace.