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Top Ukrainian pilot killed in mid-air collision

 August 28, 2023

Three distinguished Ukrainian pilots have just met a tragic end in a mid-air collision during a training exercise.

Among the casualties was Andrii "Juice" Pilshchykov, a 29-year-old aviator renowned for exceptional aerial combat skills and insights, as the Daily Mail reported.

Tragic Collision in Zhytomyr

The incident occurred in the Zhytomyr region, a considerable distance from the active conflict zones of Russia's encroachment.

The two other casualties from this tragic event have been identified as Vyacheslav Minka and Sergiy Prokazin, both members of the Ukrainian Air Force.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed his nation, expressing heartfelt condolences and stating, "Ukraine will never forget anyone who defended the free skies of Ukraine."

Honoring 'Juice': A Pilot Beyond Reproach

Pilshchykov, affectionately termed "Juice" by American colleagues during a combined training stint (a nickname attributed to his decision to abstain from alcohol), became a household name in Ukraine during the initial stages of Russia's intrusion.

Last year, he played a crucial role in intercepting and neutralizing airborne threats directed at Ukrainian cities.

Reflecting on his duties, he told the BBC, "Intercepting the cruise missiles, your mission is to save the lives on the ground, to save the city."

"If you are not able, it's a terrible feeling that somebody will die. Somebody will die in minutes, and you didn't prevent that," Pilshchykov added.

A touching scene unfolded on social media: Ukrainian service members set a piano aflame, an age-old military tradition to honor the fallen. The instrument bore the unique identifiers of the three pilots who lost their lives in the accident.

In addition to his combat accolades, Pilshchykov was a vocal proponent of augmenting Ukraine's air capabilities.

Yurii Ihnat, a spokesperson for the Ukrainian Air Force, highlighted Pilshchykov's efforts to secure F-16 fighter jets for the nation.

He recounted, "Andrii Pilshchykov was not just a pilot; he was a young officer with great knowledge and great talent."

Ihnat added, "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!"

The Road Ahead: Boosting Ukraine's Air Strength

Amid the ongoing turmoil, Ukraine is slated to acquire up to 61 F-16s in the coming months, preparing for a significant counteroperation. Initial reservations from the U.S. and NATO regarding potential escalations seem to have been alleviated.

As a testament to this growing cooperation, the Pentagon disclosed plans to facilitate English-language training for Ukrainian pilots in Texas this September, with subsequent flight training in Arizona.

Concurrently, other Western nations are also gearing up to initiate training programs for Ukrainian pilots.