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    Russian Knights pull out of MAKS-2009 air show due to accident

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    MOSCOW, August 17 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's elite aerobatics group Russkiye Vityazi (Russian Knights) will not take part in the MAKS-2009 air show due to a fatal collision involving two of its Su-27 fighters, an Air Force spokesman said Monday.

    Sunday's mid-air collision near the Zhukovsky airfield, to the southeast of Moscow, killed the commander of the group, Col. Igor Tkachenko, and injured two other pilots and five civilians.

    "All aerobatics teams from the Russian Air Force listed for the MAKS-2009 air show, except the Russian Knights, will perform at the event in line with the program," Lt. Col. Vladimir Drik told reporters.

    The official said aerobatic performances during the show on August 18-23 will involve the Strizhi team in MiG-29 fighters, the newest Sokoly Rossii (Russian Falcons) team from the Lipetsk air base in MiG-29s and Su-27s, and a group of Mi-28N Night Hunter attack helicopters from the Torzhok air base.

    The tragedy on Sunday occurred when two Su-27 Flanker fighters were performing a rehearsal for the MAKS-2009 air show.

    All three pilots ejected, and two of them were later found on the ground in a serious but non-fatal condition. Tkachenko, 45, whose parachute reportedly caught fire in mid air, was killed in the accident.

    According to preliminary investigations, the accident was most likely caused by pilot error during an aerobatics maneuver, although the possibility of a technical failure has not been ruled out.

    The organizers of MAKS-2009 earlier said the tragedy would not cancel or delay the show.

    The Russian Knights aerobatic team was formed on 5 April 1991 and manned by the elite pilots of the Kubinka Air Force base near Moscow.

    The group made its foreign debut in September 1991 in Su-27 fighters in the United Kingdom. Since then, the Russian Knights have become regular participants of the major air shows all over the world.

    They have visited Malaysia, the U.S, France, Holland, Canada, Slovakia, Norway, Belgium, Luxembourg, Austria, and China.

     

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