On the 12th of April the Hellenic Air Force lost another pilot. Captain Georgios Baltadoros was killed while returning from a 45 minute flight over the Aegean, when his Mirage 2000-5 crashed at sea. For the better part of the flight he was in a dogfight against Turkish aircraft that violated Greek airspace.

Captain Baltadoros was born on the 3rd of June 1984, and by all accounts he lived and breathed for flying. He was respected for his professionalism and flying skills in the tight-knit community of fighter pilots. He was also a husband and a father of three.

His aircraft has not yet been recovered, so the exact causes of the crash remain unknown.

Unfortunately, Georgios Baltadoros is not the first and will not be the last casualty in the undeclared war that wages over the Aegean since the early 80s, with multiple airspace violations each year and countless dogfights that push humans and machines to their absolute limit.

The day after captain Baltadoros’ death, we had 32 violations of Hellenic national airspace with one escalating to a dogfight. This is the reality that the pilots and technicians of the Hellenic Air Force face the last thirty years. The casualty figures for the Hellenic Air Force is one hundred and twenty five since 1990. 63 of those casualties are not related to the situation in the Aegean: in 1991, a C130 that transported personnel crashed in a mountainside, The rest are crashes during fights, and a large enough number of them can be attributed to the punishing tempo of the Aegean secret war.

The figures are amazing to anyone that isn’t familiar with the situation. In 2017 we had 1,103 ICAO violations, 3,317 Hellenic national airspace violations, 176 dogfights, 256 armed formations participating in the violations, and 39 overflights of greek territory. For Greece, it is the norm and the constant reminder of the never ending hostile intentions of its neighbor and NATO ally.

The matter, however, is immensely complex and mainly revolves around the continental shelf and the territorial waters. Greece is the only country in the world with territorial waters at six nautical miles and airspace at 12. Although it has the right to extend its territorial waters, that is considered casus belli by Turkey. That is because if the 12 nautical miles are ratified, it will be game over for their diplomacy in the Aegean, as there will be nothing left for them to gain. So they are trying to create precedents; they send their ships in a route from their south coastal area to their north through the international waters of…Athens. To give you an analogy, it is like going from New York to Jacksonville, FL through Indianapolis. So their constant violations in the air are an attempt to delegitimize Greece’s right. If the issue was to go to the Hague court, those matters would have been resolved; but neither country wants to do that, as the decision would be final and everyone fears that they would have too much to lose.

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What is amazing and more dangerous aside from the violations of Hellenic national airspace is that Turkish pilots don’t respect the ICAO rules and don’t adhere to flight plans. The Former Commander of the Turkish Air Force  Akın Öztürk (now in prison for his alleged involvement to the coup against Erdogan) is known for a wild ride in the Aegean that respected no rules putting civil aviation in danger.

That also opens a whole other can of worms. Most Turkish pilots, as many pilots do after their armed forces career, seek employment in civil aviation. When for ten to twenty years you have been taught not to care about the international rules of flying, how safe of a pilot are you?

Featured Image Courtesy of Captain Georgios Baltadoros’ Facebook

Dedicated to Captain Georgios Baltadoros and the Hellenic Air Force.

Honor to those who in the life they lead
define and guard a Thermopylae.
C.P. Cavafy.