Ruhama and Tova were best friends and the first two female ground controllers in the IAF who faithfully escorted the IAF’s fifth and sixth flight courses. Today, 64 years since they last saw each other, they met for the first time

Carmel Stern

“If I would have had the option to continue my service as a ground controller, I would have done it”, shared Tova Goldschmit, one of the IAF’s first two female ground controllers. “We didn’t have the option”.

Old Friends

Photography: Ceila Garion

From the Beginning
Tova and Ruhama met in 1951, in basic training and continued together, with about ten other young women, who were all designated for the IAF. The two successfully passed the general knowledge exam and were chosen to participate in the IAF’s ground control course, the first two women to do so. “We underwent psychological and medical examinations with the men who were designated for flight school”, Ruhama recalled. “In the control course, we were taught to identify aircraft, clouds and a bit of meteorology. It was about three or four months long”.

Upon completing the course, the two were assigned to the Flight Academy and closely escorted flight courses number five and six. “We were both shift supervisors, so we didn’t work together”, said Tova. “It was an intensive time. We would complete a morning shift, eat lunch and then come back for a night shift”.

Old Friends

Photography: Ceila Garion

“A woman’s voice”
“We would of course speak with the pilots, who heard a woman’s voice on the radio for the first time. In the beginning it was difficult for them to accept it, to receive instructions from women”, Tova added. “After a while, they became accustomed to it and began trusting us”.

They worked with Piper, Harvard and Stearman aircraft. “I had the opportunity to fly in a stearman once”, Tova recalled. “He spun around in the air and made me awfully nauseous. It was completely open on top and when he rolled over, my straps were the only thing that stopped me from falling. I knew I wasn’t allowed to throw up because I’d have to clean the plane”.
“I remember that I had to go to some trip in Haifa”, added Ruhama. “They gave me a ride in a two-seater Harvard. But the flight was already manned by a pilot and navigator, so I had to sit in the navigators lap the whole flight”.

Old Friends

Photography: Ceila Garion

“After we were positioned and the experiment was deemed successful, they decided to open another course with 23 girls”, they added. “It turned out to be a failure and as a result they stopped drafting girls as ground controllers”.

The two women met recently met for the first time since their military service. “I would have never recognized you”, admitted Tova to her friend when she walked in. “Really?”, Ruhama asked, surprised. “I actually think I would have”.

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