Attempts to start a ‘Negev’ Squadron Auster near a Jewish settlement ‘Hanegev’ Squadron, the southern wing of Sherut Ha’avir, is formed. Its first commander is Ezer Weizmann
In early February of 1948, it became clear that Sherut Ha’avir had to have some form of special ‘annex’ in the Negev Desert area, to help the local commanders in their routine security activities. The ‘Negev’ Squadron was therefore established. It boasted all of two Auster Autocrat (‘Primus’) planes, and was stationed at Nir ‘Am. Ezer Weizmann was appointed the squadron’s first commander, and its men became part and parcel of the unique social atmosphere – puritan and idealistic, cocky yet often hilariously humorous – that the Negev’s Palmah fighters had created.
The ‘Negev’ Squadron’s planes carried out daily patrols along the water pipeline and carried medicine, newspapers, mail and other vital supplies to the encircled settlements. It was not uncommon for the Austers’ engines to malfunction during attempts to start them, and the pilots often had to face mechanical nightmares such as these unaided, in the remote desert runways where they landed.
Before taking off on extended, ‘sensitive’ flights, the pilots made sure to stock the plane with a shotgun, a machine gun or a pistol, as well as grenades, a metal helmet, rations and a first aid kit – as a precaution, in case of a crash landing.