300 Start IAF Pilots Course

The Air Force gets its largest group of trainee pilots in 5 years, even after more than 90% are rejected.

Maayana Miskin, | updated: 22:05

Pilots course
Pilots course
Israel news photo: file

The Air Force welcomed this week its largest group of pilot course cadets in five years. Roughly 300 soldiers will take place in the pilots' course, which is renowned for its difficulty.

The 300 represent less than 10% of the total number of soldiers who tried out for the course. The others failed to pass the rigorous entrance requirements.

Among the new trainees are a new immigrant from New York, a Druze man, several only children, and a young woman whose father fell in service. There are also several sons and daughters of current and former Air Force soldiers.

General Ido Nechushtan, Air Force Commander, addressed the recruits. “You are a very high quality group,” he told them. “You have passed a very difficult sorting process, that 90 percent did not pass.”

“However,” he said, “Just over 10 percent of you will stand in formation [as pilots] three years from now.”

A pilot, he said, “must know how to perform under pressure, in tough situations... We are also looking for the qualities a captain needs: a person who takes responsibility, someone whom others look to and follow.” The cadets will also need to learn to work well in a team, he added.

“Look to your right and left,” he continued. “In this course – whether or not you finish it – you will make your best friends in life.”

Combat pilots have the most difficult profession in the IDF, Nechushtan said, “There is no other profession that takes so many years to learn.” The would-be pilots will only begin to fly combat missions in another five years.

“It takes years of training and practice, and always takes maximum attention. Finishing a pilot course isn't enough. Each flight is a new test, and you must concentrate as if it were the first time,” he said. “There is nothing like the challenges and experiences you will go through, and you will find it hard to explain to others.”

He ended by praising the soldiers, saying, “In the Western world, with Facebook and Twitter, military service is not the norm. You are among the best youth of your age in the world. Your counterparts do not enlist, certainly not for mandatory service.” In Israel, however, “we know well, we learned it by experience, that we must be strong in order to preserve what we have.”