The final test: two weeks before receiving their coveted flight wings and after three years of rigorous training, the IAF Flight Academy’s 174th class took off for their concluding flights with the IAF’s senior commanders
In its first few minutes, yesterday’s morning briefing in the Advanced Fighter Squadron seemed like any other. The cadets awaited their course commander in two neat rows. But this time, he was accompanied by Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel, IAF Commander, Brig. Gen. Avshalom, Hatzerim AFB Commander, Col. M, Flight Academy Commander and other IAF airbase and squadron commanders. They were to perform their final, concluding flight as IAF flight cadets.
The concluding flights, as their name suggests, serve as a conclusion of the cadets’ studies in the final stage of flight school and examine the basics of flight. Once boys, now cadets, soon to be airman. “It is enjoyable to observe the process the cadets undergo, each time anew”, shared Maj. Ben, Commander of the Advanced Fighter Squadron in the IAF Flight Academy. “They arrive here with no professional knowledge and a few months later, upon completing the advanced stage of their training, they stand on the parade ground and begin to understand the significance of their service as fighter pilots”.
Photography: Mor Tzidon
One On One
A moment before taking off, they divide into formations and prepare for flight, cadets alongside senior commanders. The cadet sits in the front seat and pilots the aircraft while the senior commander, in the role of the examiner, sits behind. “There is a dual meaning to flying with the force’s senior commanders, for us an as academy for cadets”, said Maj. Ben. “They come to see what the academy has been doing lately, how we fulfill our cadets’ potential and of course, get a sense of the soon-to-be graduates’ level. The cadets, on the other hand, receive a kind of official approval that confirms their capability to become fighter pilots”.
Do not be mistaken, this approval isn’t given easily. Surprise challenges, surprise battles, malfunctions and emergencies are only some of the scenarios they simulated in their concluding flights, some of which they found out about while already in the air. As in every exam the cadets underwent in the past three years, they understand that the best way to learn is from mistakes. “I was quite nervous before the flight, but in the air I remembered that I know what to do, and that I have practiced these scenarios many times, so I was free to focus on flying”, shared Avi, a cadet that took off for his concluding flight with Maj. Gen. Eshel, IAF Commander. “After the flight we performed a one-on-one debrief, the IAF Commander and I. He insisted on every single detail and gave me points for improvement and preservation, which help me learn and get better”.
Photography: Mor Tzidon
The cadets’ next flight will be as IAF fighter pilots. Two weeks from now, once they receive their ranks and wings, they will officially become IAF aircrew members and begin their Operational Training Course in the “Flying Tiger” Squadron and about a year later will be dispersed between the IAF’s operational fighter squadrons. “For them, this is just the beginning of their journey. They learned all of the basics – how to work in a squadron, how to prepare for flight and how to brief and debrief, it’s like learning to walk – but with flying”, said Col. Amir, Head of the Training Department. “This feels like the moment to conclude, but I’m looking forward”, Avi added. “In about two years from now I will be flying in an operational squadron and will have to use all of the tools I learned here”.