Pilot disorientation likely cause of crash-France

PARIS Thu Jan 10, 2008 4:04am EST

PARIS Jan 10 (Reuters) - The crash of a French air force Rafale jet in central France last month was probably caused by the pilot becoming disorientated, Defence Minister Herve Morin said on Thursday.

The Dassault Aviation (AVMD.PA) fighter jet crashed on Dec. 6 in the central department of Correze while on a training exercise. The pilot, who Morin said was very experienced and had returned from Afghanistan, was killed.

"It is not a human error. It is an inherent danger and risk for pilots. It is known as spacial disorientation, that is when you are flying at night and in the fog -- and the weather conditions were bad -- you no longer realise what position you are in," Morin told RTL radio.

"Everything seems to point to that," Morin said, referring to the initial findings of the French Accident Investigation Office. A judicial investigation is also underway.

Morin said the possibility of a technical failure or a blackout by the pilot had been ruled out.

The jet is France's most sophisticated fighter but Paris has not found a foreign buyer for it in eight years. Morin has blamed the machine's large price tag and high-tech equipment but said that had "nothing" to do with this crash. (Reporting by Francois Murphy, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

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