Switching Places

“We explained to the pilots what we see and what we don’t” Switching Places

The controllers took off for a backseat ride on a F-16 Switching Places

A control station was fitted in the heart of the “Golden Eagle” squadron A new course, which is meant to improve cooperation between flight controllers and pilots, has thrown each to the other side of the communication lines. The controllers took off in the cockpit and the pilots got to know the control station

Yuval Tsuk and Lilach Gonen | Photography: Yonatan Zalk

Flight controllers and IAF pilots meet daily on the communication lines, with one end in the air and the other end on the ground. Controllers accompany the pilots on missions, instruct them and provide them with a pair of eyes for any approaching threat. A new initiative is focused on bringing the two ends closer together and creating a unique experience: The IAF has recently opened a first-of-its-kind course, which allows each of the sides a taste of the routine of the other, and sheds a light on the relationship between them.

The Controllers Take Off on an F-16
For three weeks, representatives of each of the controller units from across the country and aircrew members from the “Golden Eagle” combat squadron sat alongside one another. The squadron’s briefing room was even fitted with a new control station, which is meant to demonstrate to pilots and navigators what kind of work controllers do on a daily basis. “We presented them with an aerial photograph, explained what we see and what we don’t”, describes Captain Roey, commander of the course and a controller of the Northern Unit. “Beyond that, the pilots experienced flight control themselves”. The controllers even stepped away from their familiar territory, zipped up green suits and climbed into an F-16 cockpit, on which they got a backseat ride.

This may be the first time the course takes place, but all indicators point to future possibilities. “The course contributed a lot to interpersonal connections between us, and also allowed us to better understand the different roles, what its capabilities are and what it needs to provide to the other side”, says Captain Roey. “One of the important things that arose in the course is our joint fighters’ spirit. The controller is a part of all actions that take place in the air, he or she feels the pain of the misses and takes part in the successes”.