Two fighter jets collide in mid-air during MAKS 2009 air show rehearsals

Two Russian air force fighters collided Sunday as they rehearsed for an air show near Moscow, killing a pilot and sending one jet crashing into houses below, a military official said.

The Su-27 fighters were members of the elite Russian Knights flying group preparing to perform at the MAKS-2009 air show. The largest and most important exhibition for Russia's aerospace industry opens Tuesday, The AP reports.

RIA Novosti and Interfax news agencies reported that the dead pilot was the Russian Knights' commander.

RIA Novosti also said a woman was seriously injured when one jet struck a house near the airfield, and up to four other people on the ground may have been injured. Authorities said the other jet crashed in an unpopulated area.

Two jets from the aerobatic team the Russian Knights collided in mid-air over the Ramenskoye airfield in southeastern Moscow while rehearsing for the MAKS 2009 air show, Russia's largest and most important exhibition for aerospace industry that opens on Tuesday.

The dead pilot was the Russian Knights' commander, according to Interfax.

Interfax said in an earlier report that all the three pilots were found after ejection and were in satisfactory conditions. One of them had his spine broken.

"There is thick smoke over the site. We saw two parachutes in the air after the collision," the RIA quoted a witness as saying.

Five civilians were injured following the crash and have been hospitalized, the RIA added, citing a local police spokesman.

The cause of the collision has yet to be determined, and it maybe either "a bird hitting the engine or pilot error," said the Interfax.

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