The IAF Flight School first opened its doors in 1950 at Sirkin Field near Petach Tikva. From Sirkin the School moved to Tel-Nof Air Force Base and from there to its current location at Hatzerim Air Force Base. In 2002, following the academic status given to the IAF’s flight course, the Flight School’s name was changed into the IAF Flight Academy.
The primary mission of the Flight Academy is to qualify aircrews. Flying, however, is only part of the story. A major emphasis is placed on training young men to be officers and leaders. The ultimate graduate is first a fighter – then a pilot.
Candidates undergo a rigorous screening process before they begin their military service. Local induction centers earmark outstanding teenagers for pilot training. The most qualified candidates are invited to the final phase of aircrew testing: a week-long march. This grueling ordeal tests their mettle both as individuals and as members of a group. Many are washed out. “Survivors” begin their training, first flying the Piper Supercub and then advancing to the Tzukit, a locally upgraded version of the Fouga-Magister jet trainer. The three-year flight course is made up of five stages: four 6 month long stages, and an academic year. .
Cadets are classified for training as fixed-wing or helicopter pilots, navigators or flight engineers. Later, they are separated into fighter and transport trends. One common element for all trainees is the constant pressure to excel. Only 10% of the original candidates succeed in earning their wings. Two Hebrew words – Hatovim Letayis – sum up the Academy’s philosophy: only the best become IAF pilots.