Discipline recommended in copter crash that killed 73

"Unfortunately, the truth was taken by the victims of the crash to their graves," said David Ivry, a former air force commander who headed the commission.

The commission submitted its findings last week to Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai, who said he would adopt them.

The commission determined that both pilots were in good health and were not suffering from any condition that could impair their ability to fly their aircraft.

The panel also said it did not appear that an external problem, such as an onboard explosion or the use of a cellular phone, had disrupted the helicopters' flights.

The commission found serious flaws in air force procedures, including a lack of coordination between flights. These formed the basis for the disciplinary measures, but the commission did not link them directly to the crash.

The commission urged the commander of the Tel Nof air base, where the helicopters were stationed, be reprimanded by the Israel Defense Force chief of staff.

The squadron commander was dismissed, and barred from taking future command positions in the air force, for telling the commission that there was no need for the two helicopters to have flown in formation, and for his disclosure that there were separate procedures between the helicopters regarding turning off lights before crossing the border.

The panel urged the deputy commander of the squadron who briefed the two pilots before their mission also be reprimanded.

It urged a ground forces officer in charge of the Machanayim air base, from which the helicopters took off, be dismissed and barred from serving in any command positions for three years.

Commission members said they could not determine what caused the helicopters' fiery collision.

It was known that the two helicopters, which were flying troops to positions in southern Lebanon, had entered a holding pattern on the Israeli side of the border before receiving permission to cross into Lebanon.

One of the helicopters had turned off its lights, as is procedure before crossing.

The second helicopter struck the first. Both went down over the northern Israeli agricultural community of Sha'ar Yishuv.

No one on the ground was hurt, but there were no survivors from the two helicopters.

The panel urged that the number of flights per pilot be reduced; that all helicopters be equipped with "black boxes" to record cockpit data and conversations; that clear procedures be established on turning off of lights when crossing borders; that a lead helicopter be established when two fly together; that squadrons operate under the same procedures; and that helicopters fly alone during any night flights into southern Lebanon.