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Today a Syrian Air Force colonel went off course during a training mission, was reported missing with his aircraft by Syrian state media, and then reappeared having landed at an airbase in Jordan, requesting asylum.

A spokesman for the rebel Free Syrian Army, Ahmad Kassem, said the group had encouraged the pilot to defect, the Associated Press news agency reported.

The Syrian state news agency Sana named the pilot as Col Hassan Mirei al-Hamadeh, and said his plane was near the southern border when contact was lost at around 10:34 (07:34 GMT).

A Jordanian security source said the pilot had flown from al-Dumair military airport, north-east of Damascus.

The BBC's Jim Muir in Beirut says Col Hamadeh may well have flown over the Deraa area close to the southern border where some of the bloodiest fighting of the day has been reported.

According to activists, as many as 18 people died when the town of Inkhel was hit by shells and a series of raids by government forces.

This is significant.  Last year, the defection of two Libyan pilots with their Mirage fighter-bombers to Malta was a major signal to the world of just how serious the situation was in that country.  And became a spark that led to many other defections including other warplanes.  The two pilots are now some of the most beloved heroes of the Libyan Revolution simply by their act of NON-VIOLENCE.

This is the most significant defection of a Syrian pilot as far as I can tell since 1989, when a pilot named Abdel Bassem took his Mig-23 to Israel.

The Syrian pilot brought with him his Mig-21, a frankly ancient but mass produced airplane (over 11,000 during the Cold War) thats been around since 1955 AKA that year Marty McFly went back in time to.  I have to imagine they were strictly trainers and last resort aircraft for Assad, ever since the '82 Lebanon War he lost 45 such aircraft to Israeli F-15s in the biggest turkey shoot since the Marianas Campaign.  

But in a pinch could easily be fitted as ground attack aircraft to slaughter civilians or even deploy chemical weapons.

A stunning and brave act of nonviolence.  He took his skills as a pilot and the deadliness of his aircraft out of the equation for Assad.

Huzzah.

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