Air force pilot dies in plane crash

An L-39 training jet

On Wednesday afternoon, a flight from Prague's Kbely military airfield to a base in Moravia turned into a tragic accident after the plane crashed near the town of Pelhrimov. The L-39 trainer jet, flown by a pilot from Caslav Airbase, came down in a field, and apparently narrowly avoided a local housing estate. The accident is being investigated by a special commission, and all training flights have been suspended until the results of the investigation are known. Oldrich Holecek from the General Army's press office gave Radio Prague a statement:

"A flight recorder of the aircraft - the so-called black box - was found and handed over to expert authorities for a survey. Local and environmental authorities in Pelhrimov were informed and according to preliminary findings, no serious environmental damage was caused. Immediately after the accident, the commander of the airforce suspended routine air training. Rescue service flights, the NATO readiness system and necessary transport flights are permitted. Further information will be provided following further investigation."

Dita Asiedu spoke to Jane's Defence Weekly's Prague correspondent, Jiri Kominek, about yesterday's accident and the current state of the Czech airforce:

"I don't know what actually caused the crash. The money that is spent on training this days leave a lot of shortages in terms of what goes into fuel. The military can't afford fuel and therefore pilots fly less and if pilots fly less then that increases the risk of accidents."

So it sounds like it's a serious crisis...

"Yes, it has been for a long time. The Czech Republic has now been a member of NATO for two years and the annual average for NATO pilots' flying time or flying hours that they record is about 150 whereabouts in the Czech Republic it's only about 40 to 50 for the top pilots and any western pilot will tell you that it is suicidal."

Since NATO is aware of it, is it doing anything to help?

"NATO may suggest ways to save money in other areas but that is a problem of the Czech Defence Ministry and the Czech Army."

I believe yesterday's accident is the 21st accident within the past ten years...

"For a country this size and an airforce this size, that's a very high number."