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August 17, 2009

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Ace pilot dies in jet collision

TWO Russian air force fighters rehearsing acrobatic maneuvers collided yesterday near Moscow, killing one pilot and sending the jets crashing into nearby vacation homes.

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.

Air force spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Vladimir Drik said the jets collided near Zhukovsky airfield, east of Moscow, where the air show is due to open tomorrow.

Drik said three pilots ejected from the jets after the collision. Rescuers found two in satisfactory condition but the third was killed.

The Kremlin identified the dead pilot as the Russian Knights' commander, Colonel Igor Tkachenko, a decorated officer.

The two jets crashed into a row of houses near the airfield, setting three ablaze and scattering debris over a wide area, officials said.

The RIA-Novosti news agency said one woman was seriously injured and up to four other people on the ground may have also been injured.

Earlier this year, officials grounded the entire fleet of Su-24s after two crashes in three days.

In an unrelated incident, Russian news agencies said a Yak-52 light plane crashed yesterday in the Kaluga region, south of Moscow, killing two people aboard.


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