Once the darkness covered the skies above, four of the competing cargo Helicopters flew into the clouds, where a thrilling competition began. As they flew above crater Ramon they extended their limits, shifted into low altitude, rescued the abandoned and dodged missiles. They only had one goal in mind: Winning the Olympic trophy
Mai Efrat, Tal Michael and Itay Itamar
Every year IAF Cargo helicopter pilots face elaborate challenging obstacle courses, hoping to reach the final stage where the victorious trophy awaits. The contest became a tradition and so is now called “The Olympics”. Much like the real Worldwide Olympics, our participating contestants go through very intense training for a very long period of time.
The competition may start at sundown, but the early hours of the morning summon the “Rolling Sward” team who is made of the Squadron’s seniors, and Major Eyal, Deputy Commander of the Squadron. “The goal is to win, but not at any price”, he emphasizes from the beginning. “We’ll do everything in the best, safest, and honest way”.
The Aerial Teams have five long hours of preparation until the rehearsal flight. The training department gave away crumbs of information as the pilots try to complete the missing parts of the picture. They brainstorm about what could surprise them up in the sky, talk about strengthening team work and exam thoroughly the aviating route. “Remember the orders we received and be ready for any threat we might run into”, suggests first lieutenant Ido. “Were hoping to avoid unpredictable gestures”, he adds. “There obviously will be many unpredictable things!” the pilots roar back, due to a lifetime of IAF Olympics experience.
What goes around comes around
A few miles away, the “Nocturnal Birds” Cargo teams are preparing eagerly. Last year’s winning squadron will not make it very easy for its competitors this year. “This year the trophy will be ours again!”, states Major Noam, Deputy Commander of the Squadron. “We know how to handle any task, we deal with them everyday”.
The rescuing mission is the most complicated challenge. At the heart of the dessert lays a tire which the pilots will have to aim sand bags into. This will require perfect collaboration. “The wind is usually working against us”, explains Roy an aviated technician in reserve duty. “The cable raves wildly in the wind, yet we have to aim it perfectly into the tire and make sure that the helicopter remains in the same altitude and position for the entire mission”.
Keeping One Eye Open
Sundown was just around the corner. Numerous Aerial Teams landed across the country, releasing the exhausted participants who only wish to hear about the winning team. The “Southern Bells” Squadron is making its last effort and gathers in order to shortly brief their executions. “Don’t fall asleep” jokes the Squadron’s Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Tzahi, a moment before he turns off the lights and turns on the aviation video, but the last thing on the squadron’s mind is sleep. The adrenaline is pumping and everyone is busy analyzing the tasks. “We are trying to figure out whether we aimed correctly at the target”, says First Lieutenant Yuval, one of the participants. Meanwhile spreads a rumor that the “Southern Bell” Squadron was the only ones who succeeded.
“I think this is the only practice that is actually similar to a real operation”, explains Major Avishay, who is currently operating as a strengthening player of the “Flying Dragon” Squadron from “Hatzerim”. “Once you face real threats you don’t have the option to stop and repeat everything you learned and continue on practicing. As we say here- you only have one shot”.
Want to find out which Squadron won? The extended article will be published in the April spread of the IAF Magazine.