Israel pilot, son of space shuttle Columbia crewman, dies in crash

A military helicopter hovers over the Hebron Hills, site of the jet crash Sunday of Israel air force pilot Assaf Ramon.
An Israel air force pilot, the son of an astronaut who died aboard the space shuttle Columbia in 2003, was killed Sunday in an F-16 fighter jet crash, Israel Defense Forces said in a statement.

Lt. Assaf Ramon died in the crash near the Israeli community of P’nei Chever in the southern Hebron Hills, the IDF said. The F-16 crashed “during a routine flight as part of the advanced pilot training course,” the statement said. The wreckage of the plane was found by search and rescue forces, the IDF said. Ramon was posthumously promoted to captain, officials said. He was the son of Col. Ilan Ramon, Israel’s first astronaut. The elder Ramon died February 1, 2003, with six others aboard the space shuttle Columbia when it broke apart over Texas, minutes before it would have landed in Florida.

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Maj. Gen. Ido Nehushtan, Israel air force commander, launched an investigation into the crash, the IDF said. All F-16 training flights were canceled until further notice. Nehushtan and Maj. Gen. Avi Zamir, head of the Personnel Branch, “visited the home of Rona Ramon and informed her of the tragic event,” the IDF said. Rona Ramon is Assaf Ramon’s mother and the widow of Ilan Ramon. The younger Ramon excelled in an IAF pilot training course last month, received a presidential honor, and was given his pilot’s wings by President Shimon Peres, Israeli military officials said. Funeral arrangements were pending.