MOSCOW – Two Russian air force fighters collided Sunday as they rehearsed for an air show near Moscow, killing a pilot and sending one jet crashing into houses below, a military official said.
The Su-27 fighters were members of the elite Russian Knights flying group preparing to perform at the MAKS-2009 air show. The largest and most important exhibition for Russia's aerospace industry opens Tuesday.
Air force spokesman Lt. Col. Vladimir Drik said the jets collided near Zhukhovsky airfield, east of Moscow, where the air show will be held.
Drik said three pilots ejected from the jets after the collision. He said one was killed, while rescuers found the other two in satisfactory condition.
The RIA-Novosti and Interfax news agencies reported that the dead pilot was the Russian Knights' commander.
RIA-Novosti also said a woman was seriously injured when one jet struck a house near the airfield, and up to four other people on the ground may have been injured. Authorities said the other jet crashed in an unpopulated area.
In recent years, Russian air force jets have suffered a series of mishaps, many blamed on the aging condition of Soviet-era planes. Earlier this year, officials grounded the air force's entire fleet of Su-24s after two crashes in three days.
Two crashes of MiG-29 jets in 2008 let to the grounding of that entire model as well. A subsequent investigation demonstrated that a large number had become unsafe to fly and were scrapped.