As the Taliban took over Afghanistan over the summer of 2021, Afghan Air Force pilots flew their aircraft out of the country to prevent the aircraft from falling into terrorist hands. Many then made their way to the U.S., hoping for a chance to find a permanent home.

Three of those pilots were killed in a single-engine plane crash on Saturday near Independence, Oregon.

Major Sayed Hussain Musawi was flying with Major Mohammad Bashir Safdari and Lieutenant Ali Jan Ferdawsi as passengers aboard a 1966 Cessna 172G. All three were C-208 pilots for the Afghan Air Force, according to a statement from Russ Pritchard, the CEO of The Afghan American Development Group, a U.S. based non-profit.

According to a release from the Independence Police Department, the plane crashed just before 5:00 p.m. in the northern area of Independence, Oregon. Independence authorities said the plane struck a power line in foggy conditions, temporarily knocking out power and sparking a small brush fire. 

The plane is registered to Curt Anderson of Salem, Oregon, who was not in the aircraft at the time of the crash. Anderson declined to comment and deferred all questions to the Salem for Refugees non-profit

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In Afghanistan, Musawi, Safdari, and Ferdawsi received their pilot’s wings under a U.S. Air Force training program. They had worked with the U.S. military up until the Taliban took over Afghanistan in 2021.

As Taliban forces closed in, the three Afghan pilots flew Afghan Air Force C-208 aircraft to Tajikistan. But, that flight came with a cost.  

“This heroic action prevented the aircraft from falling into the hands of the Taliban,” Pritchard said in his statement. “But it also meant leaving their families and loved ones behind in Afghanistan.”

The Taliban are hunting down Afghans who helped the U.S. military since the U.S. withdrew from the country or their family. Scott Chapman, a “silent co-founder” and strong supporter of AADG, spoke highly of all three and how vital their move was to remove their aircraft from the country before the Taliban could take it. 

“They flew their planes out of the country to deny the enemy access to these deadly weapons,” Chapman said. “Their swift departure also denied the enemy access to trained professional military pilots. Their skill in the air is matched by their selflessness.”

The three flew their AAF aircraft to Tajikistan, where they were placed in a detention camp for over two months. They were brought to the U.S. as part of Operation Allies Welcome, where they were granted asylum. They each had wives and children still in Afghanistan that they had not seen since August 2021. 

All three sent money to their families every month to support them, Pritchard said in his statement, knowing the danger they faced as the family members of escaped pilots. AADG is actively working to bring Afghans who worked with allied forces to the U.S. 

The group started a GoFundMe to benefit the three pilots’ families, including arrival in the U.S., and to cover funeral expenses for the three men. 

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