Despite the sunshine, a solemn atmosphere surrounded the funeral service for fallen Hellenic Air Force pilot Giorgos Baltadoros which took place in his home village of Morfovouni, central Greece on Saturday.
An honor guard formed outside the local church where his flag-draped coffin was carried inside by his comrades, followed by family and military colleagues.
A spontaneous round of applause broke out as the coffin was carried across to the church’s entrance where dozens of wreaths, many from Greece’s military and political leadership, had been placed.
The Greek Armed Forces have been observing three days of mourning for Baltadoros whose fighter jet crashed northeast of the Aegean island of Skyros on Thursday.
By order of Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, who attended today’s funeral, flags flew at half-mast at all military units.
Thirty-four-year-old Baltadoros, a father of two, was one of two Mirage pilots who departed from Skyros air force base in the Aegean to intercept a pair of Turkish F-16s that violated Greek airspace between the eastern Aegean islands of Lesvos and Chios.
However, when the Mirage pair arrived in the area the Turkish jets had already left and Baltadoros sent out a signal that the F-16s were beyond visual range.
On their return to Skyros, both jets were reportedly flying at a low altitude due to poor visibility on account of cloudy weather and the African dust in the atmosphere.
An alert was sounded after the pilot of the other Mirage said he saw Baltadoros’ jet suddenly “dip,” nine nautical miles northeast of Skyros.