1989 Belgium MiG-23 crash
A Soviet MiG-23 similar to the one involved in the accident
|Date||4 July 1989|
|Summary||Fuel exhaustion of abandoned aircraft|
|Site||Kortrijk, Belgium |
|Aircraft type||Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-23M|
|Operator||Soviet Air Forces|
|Flight origin||Bagicz airbase, Kołobrzeg, Poland|
On 4 July 1989, a pilotless MiG-23 jet fighter of the Soviet Air Forces crashed into a house in Kortrijk, Belgium, killing one person. The pilot had ejected over an hour earlier near Kołobrzeg, Poland, after experiencing technical problems, but the aircraft continued flying for around 900 km (600 mi) before running out of fuel and descending into the ground.
History of the flight
The incident started as a routine training flight. Colonel Nikolai Skuridin, the pilot, was to fly a MiG-23M from the Bagicz Airbase near Kołobrzeg, Poland. During takeoff, the engine's afterburner failed, causing a partial loss of power. At an altitude of 150 m (500 ft) and descending, the pilot elected to abandon the aircraft and ejected safely. However, the engine kept running and the aircraft remained airborne, flying on autopilot in a westerly direction.
The unmanned aircraft left Polish airspace, crossing into East Germany and then West Germany, where it was intercepted by a pair of F-15s from the 32d Tactical Fighter Squadron of the United States Air Forces Europe, stationed at Soesterberg Air Base in the Netherlands. The F-15 pilots reported that the MiG had no crew.
The MiG-23 crossed into Dutch airspace and continued into Belgium. The escorting F-15s were instructed to shoot down the plane over the North Sea, but as the MiG ran out of fuel, it started a slow turn to the south, prompting the French Air Force to put its fighters on alert. After flying over 900 km (560 mi), the MiG eventually crashed into a house near Kortrijk, less than 10 km (6 mi) from the French border, killing an 18-year-old resident.
The Belgian government made a formal protest to the Soviet Union for the lack of notification about the stray aircraft. The then Belgian Foreign Minister Mark Eyskens expressed concern that "from the time the MiG-23 was first picked up on NATO radar to the time it crashed more than an hour later, no word of warning came from the Soviet side," and that "there was also a 'notable slowness' on the part of the Soviets in disclosing whether the jet was carrying nuclear or toxic weapons."
- Incident overview from Eastern Wings
- "Belgians Protest to Soviets Over Crash of Derelict MIG". New York Times. 6 July 1989. Retrieved 16 March 2007.
- Davies, Steve, and Dildy, Doug, "F-15 Eagle Engaged – The World's Most Successful Jet Fighter", Osprey Publishing, Botley, Oxford, UK, 2007, ISBN 978-1-84603-169-4, pages 102–106.
- Graphics of the flight (newspaper Libération, description in French)
- CBS News report synopsis from the Vanderbilt Television News Archive (accessible only for associates)