UPDATE: Eight dead as Romanian MIG aircraft disappears in mission and helicopter sent to find it crashes
UPDATE: Seven people were on board of the IAR 330-Puma helicopter that crashed while on a mission to find the missing MIG aircraft crashed on the evening of March 2, the Defense Ministry (MApN) said. Two rescuers from the Romanian Naval Forces were on board of the helicopter alongside the five crew members announced initially. The pilot of the MiG-21 LanceR aircraft also died, MApN announced.
A MIG 21 Lancer fighter belonging to the Romanian Air Forces lost contact with the control tower and went off the radar while performing an air patrol mission in Dobrogea, south-eastern Romania, on Wednesday evening, March 2.
The IAR 330-Puma helicopter that was sent to find the missing MIG aircraft crashed later on the same evening and all the five crew members lost their lives, the Romanian Defense Ministry announced on its Facebook page.
The tragedy occurred amid increased air police missions in Romania after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Several NATO countries have sent more fighter aircraft to participate in such missions in Romania.
The MIG 21 Lancer aircraft took off from the Mihai Kogalniceanu airbase at 19:50 and lost contact with the control tower at 20:00. Three minutes later, it went off radar in an area close to Cogealac village in Dobrogea, according to a press release issued by the Romanian Defense Ministry. The MIG or its pilot hadn’t been found by the time this article was published.
The IAR 330-Puma helicopter took off from the same airbase at 20:21 to search for the missing MIG and went off radar at 20:44. It crashed about 11 kilometers from the airbase after the pilot had reported unfavorable weather conditions and had been ordered to return to base, the Defense Ministry announced in a second press release.
This is the most serious aviation incident involving military aircraft that occurred in Romania in recent years. In November 2014, a military helicopter crashed in Transylvania with ten people on board, eight of whom died.
Several MIG fighters belonging to the Romanian Air Forces also crashed in recent years. In 2018, one such aircraft crashed during an airshow and the pilot died as he pulled the MIG from the crowd.
Other aviation accidents and incidents that occurred in Romania in recent years:
An emergency rescue helicopter crashes in a lake near the Romanian seaside resort of Mamaia, four dead
Plane carrying medical team crashes in Romanian mountains, two dead
IAR 99 trainer aircraft crashes in eastern Romania
Four Romanian rescuers die in helicopter crash in Moldova Republic
(Photo source: MApN Facebook page)