Greece remembers Giorgos Baltadoros, the fighter pilot who died April 12, 2018 when his Mirage 2000-5 plane crashed into the Aegean, after a mission intercepting Turkish jets which had violated Greek airspace.
To honor the fallen hero, the Hellenic Air Force recently installed a Mirage fighter aircraft at Baltadoros’s birthplace of Morfovouni, a picturesque village near the town of Karditsa, Thessaly.
Baltadoros was laid to rest in his village, with the political and military leadership of Greece all present.
The Hellenic Air Force will also erect a monument with his bust in the central square of the village.
On the anniversary of his death in 2020, a wreath was laid at the pilot’s grave. A ribbon on the wreath had a message from his two children which said “Daddy, you will always remain close to our heart.”
Baltadoros served in the 331st Squadron, based at Tanagra Air Base, about 40 kilometers (26 miles) north of the Greek capital.
Pilot killed northeast of Greece’s island of Skyros
On April 12, 2018, the 34-year-old father of two was ordered to confront the Turkish aircraft that had violated Greek airspace.
The jet piloted by Baltadoros was one of two Mirages that took off from Skyros shortly after 11 a.m. to intercept a pair of Turkish F-16s that had violated Greek airspace in the area between the eastern Aegean islands of Lesvos and Chios.
However, when the pair of Mirages arrived in the area, the Turkish jets had already left and Baltadoros sent out a signal that the F-16s were beyond visual range.
On their return to Skyros, both jets were reportedly flying at a low altitude due to poor visibility on account of cloudy weather and the African sand that was present in the atmosphere.
An alert was sounded after the pilot of the other Mirage said at 12:15 p.m. that he saw Baltadoros’s jet suddenly “dip,” nine nautical miles northeast of Skyros.
His aircraft crashed into the sea as he was approaching Skyros Air Base for landing.
“Today we lost a great Air Force pilot who died in the line of duty,” Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said in a tweet after his death. “Our pain is great. Our thoughts are with his family and colleagues. On behalf of the Greek State, I express my deep gratitude and my sincere condolences.”
Tsipras also received condolences in a phone call from his Turkish counterpart Binali Yildirim.
Former Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos described Baltadoros as “a Greek pilot in the pantheon of heroes,” noting that the airman fell “while fighting to defend our national sovereignty and our territorial integrity.”