"You never really stop flying"

The IAF awarded certificates to veteran pilots concluding their many years of service, in a ceremony held this week

Date: 05/07/2012, 11:27 AM     Author: Yael Livnat

The Israel Air Force held its Excellence in Flight ceremony at its headquarters on Tuesday, awarding certificates of appreciation and excellence to four veteran pilots who have completed their service in the IAF. Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel, chief of the IAF, group leaders, and base commanders participated in the ceremony.

“If I were asked what the secret of the power of the Air Force is, I would say the people,” said Col. (res.) Maimon Naftali, a veteran fighter pilot in the IAF. “The Air Force family consists of the friends and the commanders with whom you train and go on missions. You know their voices on the radio; you depend on them when you go on missions together. They are the force driving you forward in the face of difficulty and danger. From each of them you have learned something, and each of them has learned something from you.”

“This is a bittersweet evening,” he continued. “Bitter because we are still young at heart, and we know how and love to fly and to lead, and we really want to continue to contribute. The conclusion [of our service] means we’re missing the opportunity to land an airplane one more time. We would love to report for duty tomorrow morning. And the sweetness comes from having completed a long and challenging mission, of passing the baton to a new generation that we have helped to shape and that deserves the same appreciation as we receive.”

Despite the uniqueness of each pilot, Col. (res.) Naftali said, “we have a common denominator: We just love to fly. We have the same urge to look up, to dare to push the limit, to endure, and not to give up – to be part of the same power that ensures our independence, of the same wonderful family, the Air Force.”

“This event is meaningful for the Air Force and for me personally,” said IAF Chief Maj. Gen. Eshel. “You are ceasing to fly physically, but I don’t think that you really stop flying. There is a part of each of you that has absorbed the norms, values, and role models [of the IAF], and these things live and breathe within you, even when you physically stop flying.”