A fighter pilot hailed as a hero of Ukraine for his dogfights over Kyiv during the early phase of Russia’s invasion has been killed in a mid-air crash.
Major Andrii Pilshchykov and two other airmen were killed in the collision, President Volodymyr Zelensky confirmed in his nightly video address on Saturday (August 26). The crash involved two Aero L-39 Albatros training jets flying over northern Ukraine.
A spokesman for Ukraine’s Air Force described the deaths as “painful and irreparable” losses.Yurii Ihnat paid special tribute to Pilshchykov, who used the call sign “Juice”, describing him as a pilot with “mega knowledge and mega talent”.
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Ihnat said Pilshchykov played an instrumental role in securing F-16 fighter jets from Ukraine’s allies – adding that “but now that American planes are actually on the horizon, he will not fly them”.
Last week the Pentagon confirmed that English-language training for Ukrainians on operating F-16s would begin in Texas in September, with flight training expected to begin in October in Arizona.
Ihnat said: “A year ago in the USA, Andrii met with American government officials, brought up the urgent needs of the Air Force, was in constant contact with Californian pilots, and was the main driver of an advocacy group promoting many decisions on the F-16s [supply.
“During the war, he gave dozens of interviews to Western media because he knew English well, and the most important was the topic of conversation: what can and should be talked about for Ukraine!
“You can’t even imagine how he wanted to fly on an F-16… but now that American planes are actually on the horizon, he will not fly them. Andrii Pilshchykov was not just a pilot, he was a young officer with great knowledge and great talent.
“He was an excellent communicator, the driver of reforms in Air Force aircraft, a participant in many projects. I often supported his crazy ideas, which gave incredible results!”
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Zelensky also paid tribute to Pilshchykov and the other dead aircrew. He said: “Yesterday, a disaster occurred in the sky over Zhytomyr region. Three pilots died.
“Among them was Andriy Pilshchykov, call sign Juice. He was a Ukrainian officer, one of those who helped our country a lot. A lot! My condolences to the family and friends, to everyone who knew the guys.
“The investigation into what happened is ongoing. It’s too early to talk about the details. Of course, all the circumstances will be clarified. Of course, Ukraine will never forget anyone who defended Ukraine’s free sky. May they always be remembered!”
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