The body of the co-pilot of an F-4 Phantom fighter jet of the Hellenic Airforce that crashed on Monday morning in the Ionian Sea, off western Greece has been recovered.
The pilot is still missing as a major search and rescue operation is currently underway to locate and rescue him.
According to preliminary reports, the crew of the F-4 Phantom fighter jet asked the control tower to use the automatic abandonment system. It is not clear whether it managed to evacuate.
The details surrounding the crash remain unclear. The wreckage of the jet was found near the crash site in the Ionian Sea.
The jet was performing a training flight and was flying in a pair. The official announcement of the General Air Staff is as follows:
“On Monday, January 30, 2023, at 10:30 a.m., a two-seater F-4 Phantom II aircraft of the 338th Squadron of the 117th Fighter Wing, which was performing a training flight, crashed in the sea area 25 nautical miles south of Andravidas airport, with resulting in the fatal wounding of the co-pilot, Lieutenant Marios – Michael Turoutsikas, 29 years old. Investigations continue for the Captain, Efstathios Tsitlakidis, 31 years old.”
National Defence Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos announced a three-day period of mourning in the country’s armed forces on Monday.
“While the search for the Captain continues, we express our sadness and grief at the loss of the co-pilot after the fighter jet crashed during a training activity in Andravida. Our thoughts are with the family of the Flying Officer, to whom we express our sympathy and sincere condolences,” Panagiotopoulos noted.
The last time an F-4 Phantom crashed in Greece was on Mount Parnassus on June 15, 2004. Both pilots lost their lives. Investigations revealed that the aircraft crashed due to an extreme maneuver it made as part of an exercise.
The fighter jet used for training in Greece
Andravida air base is a military airport operated by the Hellenic Air Force, located 2.5 kilometers from the town of Andravida in Elis, Greece, housing the 117th Combat Wing, and the Air Force’s Air Tactics Center.
The McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom is an American tandem two-seat, twin-engine, all-weather, long-range supersonic jet interceptor and fighter-bomber originally developed by McDonnell Aircraft for the United States Navy.
Proving highly adaptable, it entered service with the Navy in 1961 before it was adopted by the United States Marine Corps and the United States Air Force, and by the mid-1960s it had become a major part of their air arms.
Phantom production ran from 1958 to 1981 with a total of 5,195 aircraft built, making it the most-produced American supersonic military aircraft in history, and cementing its position as an iconic combat aircraft of the Cold War.