Seven years have passed since the death of the first female pilot: Lieutenant Yael Rom was a pilot in a Dakota squadron and served as a paratrooper mission pilot. Her story inspired many women to complete the arduous path to the wings and make history themselves
Almost 60 years have passed since a woman first completed the IAF’s Pilot Training Course. Lieutenant Yael Rom marched amongst the 18 officers completing Pilot Training Course number 5, and was the first woman to pin on the IAF pilot wings to her uniform. Since, almost 60 years later, the appearance of women on the stage, graduating from the course, is not an unusual sight for the IAF, and nowadays many air crew fighters take part in defending the Israeli skies.
Yael’s story inspired many women to complete the arduous course, and meetings with her instilled motivation in many young girls with sights set up high. “I met Yael at Sirkin Base during the navigation segment of my course”, says Batya Orani, who made history herself when she became the first navigator in the IAF. “She was a pilot in a Dakota squadron, and I was still a cadet. We talked about the rest of my journey and she advised me in light of her own experience. We later served together and became close friends”.
Later on, the first female pilot and the first female navigator cooperated in a paratrooper mission in the Mitla passage of Sinai. “Yael and I waited for the IDF chief of Staff’s order to proceed and participate in the operation as the paratroopers sat along the sides of the airplane, wearing the gear and ready to go. At the last minute we got the okay to proceed and took off as a formation of four airplanes. We flew for four nights and evacuated the victims”, she remembers.
Today, over 50 years after saying goodbye to the IAF, Yael remains a significant figure for the women serving the force. “I met Yael in the beginning of my military journey”, shares Captain Yifat, a cargo pilot of “Elephants” Formation. “We noticed each other during an event of the “Nachshon” squadron. I was surprised to know that there used to be a women serving in my unit and she was surprised to know I was serving there today”. Two weeks after the meeting, Captain Yifat received a letter written in the groundbreaking pilot’s own handwriting, wishing her the greatest luck. Captain Yifat couldn’t hide her excitement:” Meeting yael influenced me a lot. She is a special person who also championed and improved many issues for this generation of women”.