Sherut Ha’avir at Sde Dov.

Sde Dov, 1948. The structure at the top of the photo is the Reading power plant Sherut Ha’avir organizes in Sde Dov

The conditions in Sde Dov, where Sherut Ha’avir began its operations, were difficult, and much improvisation was needed in order for the base to go operational. True, the Sherut’s people quickly cleared the runway of the sand that had accumulated there over the years, but there were still various structures and obstacles on both sides of the runway posing a serious safety hazard, not to mention the planes that parked just a few meters away from the runway’s edge, on metal plates.

A few weeks after the airfield became operational, a large shipping container was acquired (it had served the RAF as a mobile office atop a truck). The container was placed on a hill of sand near the runway. It served as a control tower, squadron office and “slik” – or secret weapons store – for the pilots’ personal arms. A few days after it was brought in, a windsock was put up as well. The landings and takeoffs were supervised by an ‘inspector’ who simply stuck his upper body out of the container’s window and guided the pilots with the aid of flags, a flashlight and colored flares. Later on, the airfield was improved: fences was put up; medical, security and fire fighting services made available, and telephone and telegraph connections put in place.

The Sherut Ha’avir pilots who were stationed at Sde Dov became a compact, well coordinated operational unit. They decided to choose, by means of an open vote, a group leader who would fill some of the functions of a squadron commander. The first to be picked for this role was Eli Feingersh (Eyal).