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One killed in midair collision

world Updated: Mar 02, 2011 00:59 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis

One pilot was killed after two Sri Lankan fighter aircraft collided midair on Tuesday on while rehearsing for a fly past to be held during the 60th anniversary of the Sri Lankan air force (SLAF) on Wednesday.

The accident involving the Israeli-made Kfir jets occurred over Gampaha, a district to the north of Colombo, about 30 km from the Capital.

The body of pilot, Flight Lt. Monath Perera was found at the crash site, the SLAF confirmed. The other pilot, Squadron Leader Vajira Jayakody escaped unhurt. According to Daily Mirror online, one civilian who was in the crash site at the time of the incident was being treated at a local hospital for his injuries.

Two SLAF helicopters were dispatched to the site soon after the crash was reported. President Mahinda Rajapaksa visited the site, the Presidential Secretariat said.

The accident has happened within a day of air vice-marshal Harsha Abeywickreme taking over as SLAF chief.

Week-long celebrations to mark the 60th year of SLAF were slated to begin from Wednesday with Rajapaksa presiding over the inauguration as the chief guest.

Several SLAF aircraft including five Kfir jets are expected to be part of the fly past.

The air show is expected to feature air combat maneuvers and aerobatic displays by SLAF and international teams, simulated air to ground attacks by jets and attack helicopters and simulated hostage rescue operation with SLAF special forces paratroopers and aircraft.

The Kfir jets were used for thousands of sorties during the last phase of the war between government troops and the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LLTE) between 2006 and 2009.

Other than the Kfirs, SLAF has the Russian-made MiG 27 and Chinese F7 and F5 aircraft in the fighter jet repertoire.