Greece’s air force and the country at large are mourning the death of a pilot Thursday whose single-seat Mirage 2000-5 fighter jet crashed into the sea north of the central Aegean island of Skyros after returning from a mission to intercept Turkish jets.
The Hellenic Armed forces declared three days of national mourning.
According to reports, the jet piloted by 34-year-old Captain Giorgos Baltadoros was one of two Mirages that departed from Skyros shortly after 11 a.m. to intercept a pair of Turkish F-16s that violated Greek air space in the area between the eastern Aegean islands of Lesvos and Chios.
However, when the Mirage pair arrived in the area the Turkish jets had already left and Baltadoros sent out a signal that the F-16s were beyond visual range. On their return to Skyros, both jets were reportedly flying at a low altitude due to poor visibility on account of cloudy weather and the African dust in the atmosphere. An alert was sounded after the pilot of the other Mirage said at 12.15 p.m. that he saw Baltadoros’s jet suddenly “dip,” 9 nautical miles northeast of Skyros