A tragic accident in flight has claimed the lives of three people, including one of the most famous fighter pilots in Ukrainian history together with two other airmen.
During the early stages of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Andrii Pilshchykov became famous for his participation in dogfights that took place above the city of Kyiv.
The airmen’s deaths were described as “painful and irreparable” losses by the Ukrainian military, which also paid tribute to Pilshchykov as a pilot with “mega knowledge and mega talent.”
Two L-39 training planes were involved in the collision as they were flying over northern Ukraine.
An inquiry has been opened to determine whether or not the flight preparation requirements were not appropriately followed, which led to the crash that occurred on Friday in the Zhytomyr Oblast. The location is located west of the capital city of Kyiv and is several hundred kilometers from the frontline of the conflict.
In his weekly video message, President Volodymyr Zelensky confirmed the deaths and said that his country will “never forget anyone who defended the free skies of Ukraine.”
Pilshchykov, who flew under the call sign “Juice,” spoke to the BBC about the pressure he faced as a MiG-29 fighter pilot entrusted with trying to intercept the lethal weapons before they struck during the fall of 2014, when Russia fired hundreds of cruise missiles and drones against Ukraine. During this time, he was in the air when he gave his interview.
“Your mission is to intercept the cruise missiles in order to save the lives of the people on the ground and to save the city.” It is a horrible feeling to know that someone will pass away if you are unable to help them. He warned her that “someone will die in a few minutes, and you did nothing to prevent that.”
He also discussed his “mission” to join the Ukrainian air force, which he referred to as his “dream” throughout his life.
Melaniya Podolyak, a friend of Pilshchykov’s, also confirmed his passing on social media by uploading an image of his air force badge.
The crash and the deaths are a significant setback for Ukraine at a time when it is getting ready to receive up to 61 F-16 fighter jets from its allies as part of an effort to amp up its counteroffensive.
The United States Department of Defense (DoD) stated on Thursday that English-language training for Ukrainians on operating F-16s would begin in Texas in September, with flight training expected to begin in Arizona in October. In the meantime, other Western allies are making preparations to begin instructing Ukrainians by the end of this month.
It is anticipated that the training to fly F-16s will take about five months to complete.
It was a complete about-face for the United States government to decide early this year to provide F-16 fighter fighters. This is due to the fact that the United States of America and its partners within NATO, who had previously stated that they would not pursue this course of action, feared that it would lead to a further escalation with nuclear-armed Russia.
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In a message that was published on his Facebook page, Yurii Ihnat, who is the spokesman for the Ukrainian Air Force, paid respect to Pilshchykov.
“A year ago in the United States, Andrii met with American government officials, brought up the urgent needs of the Air Force, was in constant contact with Californian pilots, and was the main driver of an advocacy group promoting many decisions on the F-16s [supply],” Ihnat said. “Andrii also brought up the urgent needs of the Air Force.”
During the conflict, he granted scores of interviews to Western media outlets since he had a strong command of the English language. The most crucial aspect of these interviews was the topic of discussion, which was what may and should be discussed in relation to Ukraine.
“You can’t even begin to fathom how badly he wanted to fly on an F-16… nevertheless, now that American planes are truly on the horizon, he will not fly them.
“Andrii Pilshchykov was not only a pilot; he was also a young officer who possessed a great deal of knowledge in addition to a great deal of talent.
“He was an outstanding communicator, the driving force behind reforms in Air Force aircraft, and a participant in a wide variety of projects. I frequently offered him my backing for his wacky ideas, which led to amazing results!