A close-up look at the IAF Flight Academy’s graduated pilots

New immigrants from around the world, former athletes and more are among the pilots who recently completed 3 years of intensive training

Date: 25/07/2012, 1:15 PM     Author: Yair Barzilai

What’s the common denominator between a hockey player, a model, a tennis player, and a karate fighter? They all recently graduated from the IAF’s pilot training course.

Considered the most rigorous and lengthy of all the IDF (Zahal) training programs, the course entails three years of grueling training. Every several months throughout this period, a series of cuts determine the elite few who will eventually become the graduates of this prestigious course. In the end, only about five to 10 percent survive the final cut and are honored at a special ceremony, attended by the President, the Minister of Defense, the Chief of the General Staff and the commander of the IAF. At the end of the ceremony, an air show is held, displaying the Air Force’s latest planes and technology.
This course’s graduating pilots come from a wide array of backgrounds. Several of the pilots deferred careers in professional sports, academia, and even in the modeling industry – one of them, Lt. A., choosing extended service in the IAF over all three career opportunities.
Lt. A. was born in Russia, immigrated with her family to Israel as an infant, was the Israeli kickboxing champion, while also working as a model. Before enlisting she had already found the time to finish a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and Information Systems.
Lt. A is not the only IAF Flight Academy graduate who was born abroad. A total of 12% of the new class of pilots were born overseas, hailing from Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, Russia, the Unites States and Jamaica. Several others spent a significant portion of their lives abroad.
“It was a childhood dream of mine to become a pilot, every senior in high school dreams of it,” said Lt. D (21) a pilot who graduated with the latest course.  Addressing the extended service all pilots are required to sign, Lt. D said, “I don’t feel like I’m naïve. Enlisting in the army is a privilege, not a burden.”