Anyone who still believes that pilots only father girls, and that they all arrive wearing no underwear for their fifteenth exam flight, or that all pilots are short—should read on. One myth has proved to be correct while two others were created entirely by the fruit of someone’s imagination
Yuval Tsuk and Dana Rusou | Translation: Loren Mashiah
Rumors have a way of flying around the Israeli Air Force. Some can cause people to do very strange things. The IAF’s Aviation Academy exposes its cadets to the various rumors and superstitions that cause them keep a close and careful eye to the given instructions, as odd as they may be. For generations, destined pilots know that pressing a certain pedal in the airplane guarantees your way into the Helicopter Aviation Course.
The Aviation Academy can be a fertile ground when it comes to these superstitious believes, though they don’t stop there, and can be found everywhere around the force.
No Underwear for the 15th Flight!
You can definitely say that the IAF has created an entire world of myths and superstitions. Step into the cockpit with your right foot, never take off without giving your loved one a kiss, and don’t ever switch airplanes before takeoff. We learned never to doubt these beliefs. Not even when it means sitting in the cockpit for an entire day next to a pilot cadet wearing no underwear.
The corridors of the Aviation Academy, which have preserved the imaginary myth for years, prove the superstition to be completely real. Captain Nir, Commander of the basic stage of the Pilot Training Course, admits that during the important day of his 15th test flight–the last takeoff before the classification stages- he didn’t want provoke fate and willingly tossed away the alleged accessory. “A moment before takeoff someone came up to me and told me about the superstition”, he says, “I wanted to pass the stage, so I took my chances”. What about today’s cadets?
“It’ll only take me a moment to find out…” He announces and comes back a minute later. “Yes, cadets of course 168 believe and conduct the ‘custom’”.
Combat Pilot’s Little Girl
Although we confirmed the underwear superstition, we can’t do the same for others we heard of. Those were actually a scientific interest, were examined up close, and proved wrong.
For example, the belief that combat pilots only have baby girls. In a 1978 IAF Magazine article, results of the main statistics office about the gender of the pilot’s children were published. “If the rumor were proved correct, there would have been some serious research into the physiology of flights”, said the force’s psychologist. “Does the radiation affect the body or is it the changing altitudes?”
The results of the experiment were crystal clear: The percentage of male boys amongst combat pilots was similar to the ones found amongst Cargo and Helicopter pilots, which were similar to the percentages found amongst the entire Israeli population. On the contrary: The percentage of male boys amongst combat pilots was even a bit higher. Either way, as far as urban legends go, proving them wrong doesn’t make them disappear. Even today, the myth is strengthened every time a combat squadron welcomes a baby girl.
Who Are You Calling Short?
Many men have found comfort in the rumor about the lackluster height of combat pilots: it seems that it’s possibly the only Achilles heel to their otherwise flawless image. Does this belief hold any truth? Will a cadet be selected according to his height? Probably not. The logic behind this belief comes from the rumor that the connection between the pilot’s height and his abilities correlates the size of the cockpit. These dimensions cannot be revealed, but we are indeed allowed to measure our pilots. We took a look at the F-16 “Defenders of the South” squadron, and examined our query. The results are as follows: while the average height of an Israeli man is 1.77 meters, the average heights s ‘Defenders of the South” pilot is 1.78 (and a half) meters–which means that when it comes to combat planes, size does not matter.