Two Russian air force jets rehearsing aerobatic manoeuvres have collided near Moscow, killing one stunt pilot and sending one jet crashing into nearby vacation homes.

The Su-27 fighters were part of the elite Russian Knights flying group preparing on Sunday to perform at the MAKS-2009 air show, the largest and most important showcase for Russia's aerospace industry.

The jets collided near Zhukovsky airfield, east of Moscow, where the air show opens on Tuesday.

An air force spokesman said all three pilots involved in the incident ejected from the planes.

He said while two of them were rescued alive, the third was killed.

One jet crashed into a row of houses near the airfield, setting three ablaze and scattering debris over a wide area.

Russian TV footage showed wreckage from the other jet lying in an unpopulated field.

The Kremlin identified the dead pilot as Colonel Igor Tkachenko, commander of the Russian Knights.

The aerobatic display team's website said Tkachenko was 45, was married with a son and daughter, and had been an aerobatics pilot since 1989 with more than 1,500 hours of experience flying attack aircraft.

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Source: Al Jazeera