A Pilot in a Gas Mask Before Takeoff
Technicians Preparing for Takeoff
“The field of sight is minimized, there’s a bit of a difficulty to breathe and a restricted feeling” 21 years have passed since the Gulf War and the threat of unconventional weapons still looms near. The various squadrons in the force are prepared for any scenario, even practicing flying under NBC circumstances. We joined the “Northern Cobra” squadron in order to see how one can fly with overshoes
Mai Efrat | Photography: Yonatan Zalk
In the reality in which Israelis live, it seems that we’ve all had close interaction with the gas mask. Whether it was 20 years ago in the Gulf War, in Basic Training or in class, it has found its way onto our heads. And anyone who has has seen that protecting oneself from unconventional weapons is a cumbersome matter.
Now, imagine that you are not only wearing a mask, but also a heavy carbonaceous suit, shoes, overshoes, gloves and a helmet. And if we could add a little task to the entire operation: in a few minutes you’ll be flying a plane off the ground, good luck.
The Pilot in Overshoes
This is exactly what the Cobra pilots from the “Northern Cobra” squadron practiced recently. The organizer of the exercise, the first one to try on the suit, reveals his conclusions before the flight. “It’s cumbersome but not as much as I thought”, soothes Captain Assaf. “The field of sight is minimized, there’s a bit of a difficulty to breathe and a restricted feeling. It’s a little like diving for the first time: you’re dependant on a separate source of air and need to trust something that is not you”, he tries to describe the feeling.
A short while later, the rest of the pilots understand exactly what Captain Assaf is talking about. After a quick briefing, everyone practices sealing the operation room fully and begin getting dressed. The exercise doesn’t skip the operational clerks, who display tenacity and struggle with the overshoes until they finally cover their footwear. When everyone is ready, it is difficult to keep a straight face in light of the unorthodox scene.
“Take it dead seriously”, calls Major A’, Deputy Commander of the Squadron. “Two overalls, it’s hot and harder to press the pedals. It’s an event that we need to be prepared for; we don’t know when it’ll catch us. So don’t take off the masks, even though it’s not fun”, he smiles.
The helicopter lines receive us accordingly with said masks. The technicians, also dressed in protective gear, are prepared for takeoff and landing. In the end, it seems that everyone leaves with a similar impression: ‘It’s not as bad as we previously thought’. “That’s the idea, to take an unknown situation and see that we can deal with it and not panic. To know that if we need to do it, we can”, explains the organizer of the event, “what works now will work in crunch-time as well”.