Behind the Flyover12.05.2019 | Michal Ben Ari
The IAF's first Ethiopian-born WSO (Weapon Systems Officer), a fighter pilot who immigrated to Israel from Australia, a religious Advanced Training Course commander and the longest serving reserve airman in the force's Fighter Division – these are some of the people the 102nd ("Flying Tiger") Squadron chose to represent the IAF in the flyover for Israel's 71st anniversary, held last Thursday.
The main goal of the 102nd Squadron – which operates "Lavi" (M-346) trainer aircraft from Hatzerim AFB – is training the IAF's Fighter Division aircrews. The squadron's members are pilots and WSOs who recently graduated from the Flight Course. The squadron has utilized the innovative "Lavi" trainer aircraft since 2014.
Photography: Noam Nachum
Various IAF squadrons participated in the Independence Day flyover, among them the 102nd Squadron and its "Lavi" pilots. "In my opinion, the thing that's interesting about the chosen pilots is how they show the wide variety of people in Israel", said Lt. Col. A', the squadron's commander. "Aircrew members from both south and north, old and young, women and men". On Thursday, just before they took off, we spoke to the participating aircrews and asked them about the flight's significance for them.
"As a young girl, I would wait for Independence Day so I could see the flyover", recalled Lt. S', who graduated from Flight Course 177 last winter. "Growing up and getting to take part in planning and executing the flyover – it's exciting to me".
Lt. Y', who moved to Israel from Melbourne, Australia, originally enlisted in the "Maglan" commando unit – it was only three years later that he decided to follow his dream of becoming a fighter pilot. "To me, participating in the Independence Day flyover means being a part of something big. It's what I wanted to do when I decided to emigrate from Australia – bear an influence and take part".
Brig. Gen. Tamir & WSO Lt. Y' | Photography: Noam Nachum
Another Lt. Y' who made his way to the air force's history books is the first Ethiopian-born fighter WSO. "The Independence Day flyover is exciting for me as well", he shared. "Taking part in a flyover which emphasizes the strength of the air force is a high point in the year for the entire country".
A United Family
For Brig. Gen. Tamir, the flyover provided closure for over 40 years of service in the air force. "To me, Independence Day symbolizes a connection to the country. Both of my big brothers were aircrew combatants and my three children are officers", he said. "During the flyover, I'll be thinking of my service, my friends and family – the kids, my wife and my brothers".
One of Brig. Gen. Tamir's positions in the air force was acting as the Commander of Nevatim AFB, over which he flew during the flyover. "The chosen pilots were carefully handpicked", he added. "It was all in order to showcase the unique variety of people who live in Israel, in which we hope to live disregarding differences in sex, race and age. This hope has existed in Israel since the very beginning, and we all feel it".
Brig. Gen. Tamir graduates from the Flight Course | Photo courtesy of the interviewee
71 Years of Power
"I wish that the feeling of unity we have in our flight formation will be felt throughout Israel's society", said Maj. S', Commander of the Squadron's Advanced Training Course. "I hope we manage to externalize our spirit and make society feel like we do – a wish to be united".
"Israel's 71st anniversary gave me a feeling of strength", concluded Maj. S'. "Lt. S' spoke of the strength Israeli citizens feel when aircraft fly above them, and I feel the same strength in performing the flyover and watching our beautiful country from above. It gives me the will to go on and keep working".