Desertion of 4 March 1997

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Desertion of 4 March 1997 (Albanian: Dezertimi i 4 Marsit 1997) was the desertion of two Albanian Air Force pilots, Agron Dajçi and Ardian Elezi, to Italy. The incident caused a diplomatic scandal and increased stress between the rebels and the government.

The event[edit]

On 4 March 1997, at 15:30, two pilots of the 4020 Regiment take off from Rinas airport and head towards the south of the country. During flight they detour towards Italy and land at the Galatina Air Base in Lecce, in southern Italy. They manage to avoid radar detection by flying their plane 15 meters from sea level and are only detected by Italian forces after landing. The Albanian government later demands the repatriation of the two deserters.

Assumptions on event[edit]

The pilots said they were ordered by the government to strike Mifol Bridge, connecting Fier with Vlorë, in order to isolate the insurgency. Not wanting to hit civilians, they fled to Italy. But the fact that the aircraft was not spotted by radar, despite being old and difficult to pilot at low altitudes, suggests that the escape to Italy was preplanned and not a spur of the moment as the pilots said.