It’s Time to Fly

IAF Planes in an Aerobatic Performance | Photography: Nehemiah Gershuni It’s Time to Fly

IAF Planes in an Aerobatic Performance | Photography: Nehemiah Gershuni It’s Time to Fly

Celebrating the end of three long years It’s Time to Fly

The Graduates of the “Pilot Training Course” It’s Time to Fly

Commander of the IAF grants “Pilot Wings” to the graduates These were three long years. Three years in which young boys and girls became mature pilots and officers in the IAF. Now, their arduous journey finally comes to an end

Lilach Gonen and Itay Itamar

The newly minted officers received their blue uniforms and “Pilot Wings” pin in a joyous ceremony. In the same rows in which they stood, anxious and afraid, three years ago, the graduates of “Pilot Training Course 163” now stand to receive their wings, with which they now enter the air crews of the IAF. The audience was filled with family and friends dressed in specially made t-shirts for the exciting event, cheering and tearing up with excitement.

The graduation ceremony took place in the IAF “Hatzerim” airbase attended by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Minister of Defense Ehud Barak, Commander-in-Chief of the IDF, Lieutenant General Benny Gantz and Commander of the IAF, Major General Ido Nehushtan.
“Today, you join the IAF”, congratulated Prime Minister Netanhayu and said: “You are the fingers of the iron fist of the State of Israel, linked to the lengthy arm of ours that is intent to defend our country”.

Wings from Commander of the IAF

Brigadier General Ido Nehushtan, Commander of the IAF, related deeply to the graduates. “The “Pilot Wings” that will be attached to the chest on the left side, close to the heart, reflect the talent and tremendous personal level you have displayed throughout the long training process. Deep inside you, there is the bravery of aerial combat, the love of flight, the roots set deeply in the importance of our small state. From these roots you will imbibe the faith and moral values that you need to keep the sky over our heads. Courage in the air and deep roots are the essence of the legendary legacy of the IAF, which you are now a part of”.
Following his speech, the Commander of the IAF granted the silver wings to each one of the graduates.

“Capable of any Mission”

In accordance with a long-held tradition, the IAF planes that will be flown by the new pilots displayed capabilities in an aerobatic display. The aged “Stearman” and “Harvard” planes took off from the neighboring IAF museum to participate in the show.
The ceremony was marked by the 20 years that have passed since Operation “Solomon” to bring Ethiopian Jews to Israel.
“As someone who was a part of the IAF then and who commanded the ground forces in that mission in Addis Ababa, I learned an important lesson about the IAF”, said Lieutenant General Benny Gantz, who then commanded the “Shaldag” commando unit. “I learned that the lengthy arm of the IAF is capable of any mission, at any place and at any time. The IAF, which carried Ethiopian Jews to Israel, is the same force that hurt our enemies. You now join your friend, the aerial combat fighters, who are an absolutely crucial part of the defense wall of Israel”.
In mention of the two decades since the operation, a “Boeing 707” demonstrated an entrance to the scene from east, while simultaneously refueling an “F-15” over the heads of the audience.

Taking off to a New Journey

The special ceremony concludes three long years, filled with thousands of flight hours and challenges, but love as well: For the first time in history, two couples will march in the graduation ceremony, which met in the course and will also complete it together.
One of them, First Lieutenant Assaf, who is graduating as a Combat Navigator together with his partner, First Lieutenant Shaked, was also granted the “Award of Excellence” and accordingly, was given his “Pilot Wings” by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“There is no greater proof, of the absurdity of gender inequity, than your standing here, taking part in this graduation”, said Prime Minister Netanyahu to the female graduates of the course. “There’s no place for the exclusion of women in the State of Israel. In a country in which women sit in the cockpit-women will sit everywhere. And that is the policy of the IAF, the policy of the IDF and the policy of Israel”.