By Shakeh Avoyan
A small civilian plane belonging to a Georgian company crashed in central Armenia in unknown circumstances on Wednesday as it sprayed chemical insecticides over local forests, killing its pilot.
The Georgian pilot, identified as David Kakhianidze by Armenian authorities, was the only person on board. His plane was hired by the Hayantar state forestry agency as part of the Armenian government’s efforts to fight against caterpillar pests increasingly damaging the country’s already endangered woods.
The spokesman for the government’s Department on Emergency Situations, Nikolay Grigorian, told RFE/RL that his agency opened an immediate inquiry into the crash and has not yet identified its possible causes. He said the Soviet-made X32B aircraft went down near the village of Arzakan on its third flight of the day.
The government decided to resume pest control measures over 3,000 hectares of woodland across the country this summer after a seven-year hiatus which environmentalists say has put the national forests at greater risk by allowing the caterpillars to proliferate dramatically. The operation began on Sunday and was due to last for a week.