Chief of General Staff: “Now it’s your turn to take off and complete the mission of your generation”
An F-15 Putting On a Show
Strutting Toward Their Wings They’ve been waiting for this moment for three years. After long months of fears, training, flights and navigations, their day has finally come
Itay Itamar and Lilach Gonen | Photography: Yonatan Zalk
The Aviation Academy’s stage area held more than a few tears of joy today: The IAF celebrated the addition of the graduates of Pilot Training course 164 to the ranks of air crew members in the force. Walking alongside the proud graduates, young pilot cadets looked on hopefully, dreaming of the day they will receive wings.
“In the past two years the Middle East has been going through turmoil”, said Minister of Defense, Ehud Barak. “We have to be prepared, attentive to our surroundings. In the moment of truth, you will stand together with senior pilots on the frontlines. We trust you with every mission. Fulfill your duty such that the citizens of Israel will be able to live their lives and wait for peace”.
Received the Torch from the First Pilots
The new graduates had the privilege of meeting the first pilots of the IAF, those who established the force 65 years ago. Amongst others, Oded Abarbanel, a graduate of the first Pilot Training Course in Israel and the first to receive a citation from the Chief of General Staff, Danny Shapira, former head experimental pilots of the force, Yehoshua Hilotz, the first commander of Ramat-David airbase and Dita Perah, one of the first female pilots of the force. Today, she passed on the torch to First Lieutenant Anita and First Lieutenant Maya, the newest female pilots of the force.
“Even in our earliest days, the buds of the capabilities and flexibility of aerial power had begun to show”, began Commander of the IAF, Brigadier General Amir Eshel. “Beyond that, the brave spirit of the pilots was discovered as well”.
Every Plane in the Sky
First Lieutenant Amit, who received the excellence citation of the course, received his pilot wings from the President of Israel himself. “In this new era in our world, we need far-range and close deterring capabilities as much as ever”, said President Peres. “The men and women who join the ranks of the force today know, if so, how to take off from short runways to long distances. The force has to bridge over the small size of our country to the width of the threats”.
The small country’s skies were filled, as with every Pilot Training Course graduation ceremony, with planes and helicopters of all squadrons, which arrived to congratulate the next generation of pilots. Hercules planes, Apachis, a Boeing 707 and Sikorsky helicopters all cooperated in order to put on an extraordinary simulation show. In a joint premiere, the new F-16 Fighting Falcon flew alongside the longstanding instructional plane, the yellow Harvard. As the older plane attempted to lunge forward, the F-16 flew as slowly as possible—and thus past and present flew forward together.
“Your grandparents who look toward you with shining eyes from the audience, fought for the independence of our country”, said Chief of the General Staff, Lieutenant General Benny Gantz to the graduates. “Your parents, who clap proudly for you on this day, served their part in protecting the country and our nation. Now it is your turn”.
This graduation ceremony was also the first for Brigadier General Amir Eshel in his role as Commander of the IAF. “The weight of responsibility on your shoulders, graduates, will only get heavier. The right to carry your wings and the security of Israel will be a strong wind, that will provide you with the levitation and courage to push yourselves when the tide gets rough. As you receive wings and become fighters of the IAF, we trust you and feel secure. Remember that as pilots you will need all of your human capabilities and will be demanded to risk your lives under fire”.