May 23: Commemorating Captain Konstantinos Iliakis who died defending his country

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Today Greece and Greeks worldwide commemorate the death of Captain Konstantinos Iliakis who lost his life on May 23rd, 2006, while defending his country. A Greek F-16 and a Turkish F-16 collided near the island of Karpathos during a Turkish reconnaissance flight.

On this day, 14 years ago the Turkish F-16 aircraft crashed into the Greek F-16 aircraft while attempting to prevent the latter from identifying a Turkish RF-4 reconnaissance airplane, approximately 35 nautical miles south off the island of Rhodes. Greek pilot Kostas Iliakis was tragically killed, and the Turkish pilot Halil Ibrahim Ozdemir bailed out and was rescued by a cargo ship.

According to reports, Captain Iliakis approached the Turkish aircraft maintaining a steady course and the required safe distance while trying to identify the nonresponsive aircraft.

The Turkish pilot, 1st Lieutenant Halil Ibrahim Ozdemir, made a turn in close proximity, crashing on top of Captain Iliakis' airplane.

According to Greek pilot reports, Ozdemir was one of many Turkish pilots from an infamous Turkish Air Force squadron. The pilots of that squadron were consistently responsible for multiple near misses in the Aegean due to their disregard for flight safety.

The tension which escalated over the Aegean after the collision, was eased with telephone conversations between Greek and Turkish foreign ministers as well as general chiefs of staff.

A crisis was avoided due to the calmness of authorities on both sides.