A Puma helicopter that was launched to search and rescue a missing MiG-21 pilot crashed killing 7 crew members. MiG pilot still missing

Mar. 2, 2022, was a tragic day for the Romanian Air Force. First, a MiG-21 LanceR, that had taken off from the 57th Air Force Base Mihail Kog─âlniceanu at around 19.50LT disappeared from radars at 20.03LT in an area between Gura Dobrogei and Cogealac, west of Costanta, in the eastern part of Romania, not far from the Black Sea.

Search and rescue operations were immediately launched. An IAR-330 (the Romanian built version of Aerospatiale SA330) Puma helicopter took off from the same base and headed towards the area of the possible crash, looking for the missing pilot. The helicopter lost the radio contact with the base around 20.44LT and crashed in the area of Gura Dobrogei, Constanta county, about 11 km from the airport.

The Romanian Air Force later announced that 7 military aboard the helicopter had been killed in the incident, including two rescuers of the Romanian Naval Forces. Search and rescue operations of the pilot of MiG 21 LanceR aircraft are still underway.

The news of the two crashes immediately fuelled some crazy theories. Social networks went abuzz with people speculating on the root causes of the incidents and suggesting both aircraft were shot down by the Russian forces operating in the Black Sea region. Many have called the crashes a new “Gulf of Tonkin” incident. Needless to say, based on the details released by the Romanian authorities so far, these speculations appear to be completely unsubstantiated.

The airspace around Costanta is one of the most well-guarded in the region, considered also that several NATO aircraft supporting enhanced Air Policing mission are deployed to Mihail Kog─âlniceanu and in QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) on an H24 basis. Moreover, weather was reported to be pretty bad in the area of the two crashes, with snow/rain and low ceiling. The bad weather and the darkness may have contributed to one or both incidents. Without forgetting that despite the upgrades, the MiG-21 LanceR remains a quite old aircraft.