F-16 Israel news photo (IAF website)

IAF F-16 pilot Captain Assaf Ramon, son of the late Ilan Ramon, was killed Sunday when his jet crashed during a routine training flight over southern Hevron Hills. It is not known whether the crash was caused by a technical malfunction or human error.

Assaf Ramon's jet had been participating in a mock aerial dogfight at high altitude when it crashed.

There was no communication from his jet from the moment when it began to dive towards the ground until it crashed. Former IAF pilot Col. (res.) Zeev Raz, who was a friend of the Ramon family, said on Channel 2 that he estimates that the most likely reason for the crash was a pilot's blackout and ensuing loss of consciousness during a sharp maneuver.

Assaf Ramon of blessed memory

Assaf Ramon congratulated by President Shimon Peres upon finishing Pilots' Course (IDF Spokesman's Unit)

Assaf finishing Pilot's Course (IDF Spokesman's Unit)

Rona Ramon at Assaf's Pilot Course graduation ceremony (IDF Spokesman's Unit)

IAF Commander Maj.-Gen. Ido Nechushtan and Personnel Branch Commander Maj.-Gen. Avi Zamir went to the home of Assaf's mother, Rona Ramon, and delivered the tragic news to her. According to one news outlet, Rona Ramon was aware of the tragedy before the IDF representatives notified her, because she saw journalists milling about outside her home and guessed what had happened.

Video: Assaf Ramon Completing IAF Pilots' Course  (Email readers, please click here to view the footage.)

Assaf's father, Ilan Ramon, was a fighter pilot in the IAF, and was the youngest pilot who took part in the bombing of Iraq's Osiraq nuclear reactor in 1981. Later, he was the first Israeli astronaut. He was killed on board the Space Shuttle Columbia when the spacecraft exploded upon reentering the earth's atmosphere.

IDF sources said that Assaf Ramon completed the Pilots' Course with excellence about ten weeks ago. He had come to his base from his home Sunday and was fully alert when he set out on the routine training flight.

Maj.-Gen.Nechushtan announced Sunday evening that an investigative committee headed by a colonel had been appointed to probe Sunday afternoon's crash. The Air Force also announced that it was grounding all training flights on the F-16A until further notice.

Assaf Ramon was considered to be an excellent pilot. Assaf was the oldest of Ilan and Rona Ramon's children. He left behind two brothers and a sister.

Readers who are interested in sending their sympathies to the Ramon family may do so here.

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