‘He dreamed of F-16s’: Ukraine Air Force praises pilot ‘Joyce’


A well-known pilot who belonged to the “Ghost Kiev” unit has been paid tribute by the Ukrainian Air Force after he died in a plane crash while on a combat mission.

Andrei Pilshikov, who was using the call sign “Joyce,” and two other pilots died in the accident on Friday, August 25, when two L-39 combat training planes collided in the air, according to the Ukrainian Air Force.

“(Joss) was not just a pilot, he was a young officer of great knowledge and immense talent. “He dreamed of F-16s in the Ukrainian sky,” Ukrainian Air Force spokesman Yuriy Ihnat said in a statement on Saturday.

He continued, “He was an excellent communicator (and) the driving force behind reforms in Air Force aviation, involved in many projects.”

“He devoted his short but very bright life to combating aviation,” Ehnat added, saying he had “done a tremendous job in this matter.”

Pilchikov, a MiG-29 pilot, was part of a unit known as the “Ghost Kiev” that defended central and northern Ukraine at the start of the war. The Air Force said it had campaigned for the supply of the F-16s.

“You can’t even imagine how much he’d like to fly the F-16s,” Ihnat noted, adding that it was unfortunate that Pilchikov wouldn’t be able to fly them since “American planes were on the horizon.”

In an interview with CNN in June, Pilshikov explained why he thought it was important for Western countries to provide Ukraine with American fighter jets.

“Our counterattack can be more effective and safer for our men on the ground,” he added.

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Pilchikov was on combat duty near the city of Zhitomir, about 140 kilometers (87 miles) west of Kiev, when the accident occurred, according to the Air Force.

The Air Force expressed its condolences to the families of the deceased, saying, “This is a painful and irreparable loss for all of us.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky described the plane crash, which claimed the lives of three pilots, as a “catastrophe”, and noted that Pilchikov “helped his country a lot” and “will never be forgotten”.

“The investigation into what happened is still ongoing. It is too early to talk about the details. Of course, all the circumstances will be clarified,” Zelensky said.

And in an interview last year with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, Joyce said he got his nickname during a trip to the United States. He said his friends invented the nickname because he doesn’t drink alcohol and always orders juice instead.

Ukraine insists it badly needs the F-16s to counter Russian air superiority.

In a landmark agreement hailed by Zelensky, countries like the Netherlands and Denmark will supply Ukraine with F-16 fighter jets.

The United States announced this week that it will begin training Ukrainian pilots to fly the F-16 in October.

“Following English language training for pilots in September, flight training for the F-16 is expected to begin in October at Morris Air National Guard Base in Tucson, Arizona, with facilitation from the 162nd Air National Guard Wing,” Pentagon spokesman Brig. Gen. Pat Rider said Thursday.

Another US official said Ukraine had submitted a list of 32 pilots ready to begin training on the F-16 fighter jets, but most of them were not yet proficient in English.

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In 2022, Pilshikov met with US government officials and was “in frequent contact with pilots in California,” the Air Force noted.

“He was the main driving force behind an advocacy group promoting many decisions on the F-16,” said Ihnat, noting that Pilchikov “talked about the urgent needs of the Ukrainian Air Force” and said that many of his ideas had “yielded amazing results.” “.

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