“No one hears the noise of a plane in the sky and doesn’t raise his head and open his mouth in awe” Thousands of graduates have completed the IAF Pilot course since the IAF Flight School was established, and a new class of cadets will be joining them this Thursday. How does the graduation ceremony still manage to excite?
This week, the graduates of IAF Pilot Course 169 will be presented with their officer insignia and pilot wings and will officially become IAF aircrew members. Over 169 exciting graduation ceremonies have been held since the founding of the IAF. In spite of the thousands of excited combat soldiers and dozens of aerial demonstrations, the ceremony still continues to excite adults and children, guests and graduates, and IAF veterans and civilians.
“The ceremony is the only time that the IAF can show off its capabilities to the public. It’s important to understand that with the beginning of television broadcasting in Israel, it began possible to film the aerobatic exercises, the planes, and the graduates and it made a huge difference”, says Aharon Lapidot, the current assistant editor of “Israel Today”, and former editor of IAF Magazine. “No one hears the noise of a plane in the sky and doesn’t raise his head and open his mouth in awe. Most of the time, the IAF’s activities are kept secret, and justifiably so. This is an opportunity to show the public a little of what happens behind the scenes”.
A Sense of Pride
Beyond the complex aerobatic exercises, the crux of the ceremony is the end of the long journey that is the IAF Pilot Course, one of the most prestigious and longest courses in the IDF. “The magic of the ceremony lies in the close-knit societal network in the country. An unpleasant example that illustrates the point is the helicopter disaster in Sha’ar Yishuv in which 73 soldiers were killed. A statistical study showed that almost half a million people in Israel, one way or another, knew one of the victims. That is a huge proportion, something you’d only see in Israel”, explains Lapidot. “The population identifies with the graduates; everyone feels a sense of pride. Even in times like this, the feeling is genuine”.
The ceremony is important not just to the public or the audience, but also to the IAF itself. “The IAF’s schedule revolves around the graduation ceremony. It is of unusual importance internally, not just to the media”, adds Aharon Lapidot. “Within the force, everyone knows that the graduates are the kind of people the next generation of commanders will come from. The ceremony is always an exciting event, no matter how many times you go and see it. It will always interest people. It will always be documented and will always intrigue the public and the force alike.”