25 years after Pilots Course, members from course 120, 121 and 122 received their “Silver Wings” that indicate 25 years as operational aircrew members. Not only did they conclude the long journey they went through, they also got to cherish one thing that stayed the same throughout the years: IAF family
Their journey as aircrews in the IAF began 25 years ago: young pilots that made it through the long and exhausting course, waiting to reveal their Pilot Wings.
25 years later, they gathered at a special event in Palmacim Airbase and received their “Silver Wings”, in recognition of 25 years of operational flight. This time, they came with the next generation – the families they have established since the Pilots Course, where they all became friends for life. Some of them have grown bellies and their golden locks have shed, however they still stand tall and proud as they did in the good old days.
“In the last 25 years, this country has gone through changes that would take a century for other countries. Everything has changed in the IAF: the aircraft are not the same aircraft, the airbases have changed faces, however, its core stayed the same”, said Maj.-Gen. Amir Eshel, IAF Commander. “It is hard to quantify your dedication to the safety of Israel, it is our obligation. There are citizens and people in uniform – each person went their own way, but together gave their part, a part that echoes in the entire Middle East. The journey continues: the IAF today is strong, on the brink of integrating technologies of 5th generation combat aircraft, with advanced systems, more missions and more arenas. And what’s our secret? Mostly you, the people. We have a great team and you have a part in the design of the IAF as it is today”.
Of the aircrew members that took part in Pilot Courses 120, 121 and 122 and completed 25 years of flight, stand Tel-Nof Airbase Commander, Commander of Flight School in Hatzerim Airbase and commanders in additional airbases. Col. (Res.) Yahel, who was Commander of Sde-Dov Airbase until recently, received his “Silver Wings” yesterday. He too, like most of the other participants, summed up the feeling in one word: “strange”.
“This course is so intensive, that the connections that it creates is so deep, there are people that I haven’t seen in 15 years and I still feel like we’re close friends”, shared Col. (res.) Yahel. “We aren’t concluding anything. Just this morning I flew in my squadron, but it’s amazing how the time goes by”. He asked to add: “everyone says their course is the best, but course 120 really is”.
Along with the happiness and excitement, no one forget the aircrew members that were not there to receive their “Silver Wings”. Rachel Glick, mother of late Capt. Yuval Glick that fell in line of duty in 1991, arrived not to speak “in name of” rather to share her feelings and experiences. “Yuval told me: I don’t know if I meant to be a pilot, but if I see that it suits me – I’ll stay ‘because if I see that it suits me to begin the course, the rest is up to me’, he said”, shared Ms. Glick. “I remember the day he drafted – from that moment a new chapter in my life began, one where I wouldn’t leave my house from 6:00-8:00 pm as I waited for his calls, of laundry that had to be washed over the weekend, of sitting on the lawn in front of Hatzerim Airbase where I got to meet Yuval’s new friends that were meant to accompany him in his hardest times”.
One of the “Silver Wings” receivers is Lt. Col. (res.) Yakir Lapid, who along with serving as an IAF pilot for the last 25 years, is currently taking part in the search for his uncle, the late Lt. Yakir Nave, whose aircraft crashed in 1962 in the Sea of Galilee along with his student Oded Koton as part of his service as an instructor in Pilots Course. Crews are currently busy with trying new searches to find his body.
“I didn’t begin flying because of it”, explained Lt. Lapid. “Yakir’s story accompanies my family and is always there with me, but what influenced me is the IAF’s spirit, in which my father served and was always present in my home. For me, it comes full circle. These have been 25 of 30 years in the IAF, that were incredible and filled with tough yet exciting moments that I am excited to conclude today, a year after I quitted operational flights. If I could give a message to the young generation of Pilots: just continue flying as much as you can, because it’s a gift and you have to work hard for it”.