A Romanian Air Force MiG-21 LanceR fighter aircraft crashed Saturday during the Open Air Day of the 86th Air Base (Baza 86 Aeriană) in Borcea, Fetesti in the country’s southeast, killing the pilot.
The aircraft was participating in the Open Air Day demonstration flight when it crashed at around 13.30 local time near the air base, some 240 kilometers (150 miles) east of Bucharest. The 36-year-old pilot of the jet, Lieutenant-Commander Florin Rotaru, reportedly ejected but was declared dead later.
Lt. Cdr. Rotaru, a chief pilot with the RoAF 861st Combat Aviation Squadron, had over 400 hours of flying experience, of which about 250 was MiG-21. He was a graduate of the Air Force Academy “Henri Coanda” since 2005.
According to reports, the pilot parachuted after ensuring that the plane left the air base where some 4,000 spectators were watching the air show organized on the occasion of the Borcea Air Base Open Air Day. The plane finally came down on a farmland about 10 km north of the base. According to eyewitnesses accounts, the crash was preceded by an explosion and followed by a fire.
The public attending Open Day has been evacuated from the airbase and the rest of the flying display was cancelled.
Romanian Defense Minister Mihai Fifor is currently on his way to Borcea base, the Ministry of National Defence said soon after the accident. The ministry added that the cause of the crash is being investigated.
This is the 20th crash of a Romanian Air Force MiG-21 LanceR fighter aircraft and Lt. Cdr. Rotaru is the 12th pilot who got killed in a flight accident of this aircraft type.
More photos from the crash site: MiG-21 Lancer Romanian AirForce at 86th Base Borcea during Borcea Open Day. Pilot ejected, but his condition is yet unknown. @FlightAlerts777 @airlivenet @FlightEmergency @FlightIntl pic.twitter.com/NENBodcDQT
— Aeronews (@AeronewsRO) July 7, 2018
BREAKING: A #MIG21 Lancer #crashed some minutes ago in #Fetesti #Romania. UPDATE The pilot died in accident said Foreign Minister. This is the photo after crash. #AJStream #AJNewsGrid @KamahlAJE @LeahHardingAJE @andrewchappelle @sarakhairat @mmbilal @FemiOke @ASE @DanMing pic.twitter.com/s3FLG68w2S
— Adrian Pacurariu (@adrianpacurariu) July 7, 2018
MiG-21 LanceR is an upgraded variant of the legacy Soviet-made Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 (NATO reporting name: Fishbed) supersonic fighter interceptor in service with the Romanian Air Force.
The aircraft is equipped with avionics and weapons systems developed by Israel’s Elbit Systems and Romanian aeronautical manufacturing company, Aerostar S.A.
The LanceR program saw the upgrade of a total of 114 MiG 21 airframes in three versions. The LanceR A version is optimized for ground attack being able to deliver precision guided munitions (PGM) of eastern and western origin as well as R-60, R-73 and Python III air-to-air missiles (AAM). The LanceR B version is the trainer version, and the LanceR C version is the air superiority version featuring 2 LCD MFDs, helmet mounted sight and the Elta EL/M-2032 Air combat radar.
The Romanian MiG 21 LanceR fleet is based at the RoAF 71st Air Base (Baza 71 Aeriană) at Câmpia Turzii in central Romania and the RoAF 86th Air Base (Baza 86 Aeriană) at Borcea in south-east Romania.
Despite being one of the newest MiG-21 fleets in service, the Romanian MiG-21 LanceR fleet was plagued by accidents, and since 1996 it has had an accident rate of over 30 per 100,000 hours and serviceability rates below 50% are not uncommon.
Romanian Air Force is now the Europe’s largest MiG-21 operator. The country, once a Warsaw Pact member state, imported a total of 400 MiG-21 fighters from the 1960s to the 1980s but less than 20 of them are currently thought to be operational.
Romania, a NATO member since 2004, is upgrading its Air Force to NATO standards and is is in process of replacing its ageing MiG fleet. The country received its first six refurbished F-16 fighter jets from Portugal in 2016.