Kfir crash killing pilot dampens SLAF 60th anniversary
The 60th anniversary of the Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) was commemorated in a grand scale in the country. But for the family of Squadron Leader Monath Perera, it turned out to be nightmare.
While aircraft coloured up the skies, on the ground, the household of Squadron Leader Perera would be filled with the vacuum he has left.
Squadron Leader Perera was killed on March 1 when two Kfir jets were involved in a mid air clash while training for the SLAF’s 60th year commemoration.
The other pilot however escaped death.
The mid air clash had taken place in the skies above Yakkala. The SLAF said that Commander of the Air Force, Air Marshal Harsha Abeywickrama had appointed a committee headed by Air Vice Marshal Kapila Jayampathi to investigate into the causes of the accident.
Witnesses said that the aircraft had been taking part in rehearsals for two to three days before the accident. Chairman of the Attanagalla Pradeshiya Sabha Upul Mahendra Rajapaksa told The Nation that the he saw five jets taking part in rehearsals on the day of the incident.
He had also seen the wings of the two ill-fated aircraft touching each other during rehearsals. He said the accident had taken place around 9.30 am. “There were five jets that were rehearsing for the event. Three were flying in front while two were at the back,” Rajapaksa said.
He said that the two jets at the back were the ones that were involved in the accident. “One jet was flying slightly lower than the other one. Suddenly the lower one began to go higher and in the process the wings of the two jets touched. A wing in one of the planes broke and I saw two, blue and red parachutes ejecting from the aircraft,” he added.
Rajapaksa had quickly driven to the place where the planes were believed to have crashed. “One of the planes had crashed in Nelligahamulla. I saw black smoke coming from the crash site.”
Rajapaksa added that several houses had been damaged due to the crash. “Around 10 houses were damaged. One person was injured.”
In addition, Rajapaksa pointed out that damage had been caused to the environment surrounding the crash site. “The trees are burnt. The land has been polluted due to the fire caused by the burning aircraft,” he said.
Speaking on the incident, SLAF spokesperson Group Captain, Andrew Wijesooriya said he could not make any comments on the matter as the investigations had begun. “I cannot make any comments about the incident until the investigations are completed,” he said.
However he stated that all Kfir jets with the SLAF had been grounded following the accident and would remain grounded until the investigations are complete.
“I cannot divulge the number of Kfir jets with the SLAF. But, they have been grounded until investigations are over,” Group Captain Wijesooriya added.
Commenting on the flying areas used, Group Captain Wijesooriya said the SLAF used certain areas over land..
In the meantime, Air Marshal Harsha Abeywickrama had visited the family of Squadron Leader Monath Perera and paid his last respects.
The SLAF announced that Flight Lieutenant Monath Perera who died following the accident had been posthumously promoted to the rank of Squadron Leader with effect from March 4.
The two Kfir jets that were involved in accident belonged to the No. 10 Jet Squadron of SLAF Base in Katunayake and were taking part in a rehearsal for the SLAF 60th anniversary.
“The two jets took off from SLAF Base Katunayake around 9.10 am for fly past rehearsals and crashed at 9.30 am, 6 km off Yakkala near the Kirindiwela Road. Preliminary reports indicate a possible collision as a cause for the crash of the two fighter jets which were flying in tight formation at the time of the accident,” the SLAF said.
Squadron Leader Vajira Jayakody, who was the other pilot involved in the accident had received minor injuries and has been transferred to the Colombo National Hospital for observation.
Squadron Leader Monath Perera
Squadron Leader Monath Perera was born on the October 13, 1982. He joined the SLAF on August 1, 2004 after completing his education at Mahinda College, Galle.
He was commissioned as a Pilot Officer on July 8, 2005. He was later promoted as Flying Officer in January 2007.
He commenced his profession as an SLAF pilot in the Flying Training Wing and took up the challenge to test waters in the fighter squadrons. He first flew the K-8 fighter jets and soon moved onto the F-7 in the No. 5 Jet Squadron.
Squadron Leader Perera was also part of the humanitarian operations in the Wanni. He joined the No. 10 Attack Jet Squadron 12 October, 2007 to fly the Israeli built Kfirs.
In 2010 Monath was promoted to the rank of Flight Lieutenant.
Source: By Arthur Wamanan - airforce.lk