Graduates of the Israel Air Force's pilot school will finish their classes and officially be presented their “wings” in a ceremony this Thursday. Presenting them with their graduation awards will be Defense Minister Ehud Barak, IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, and IAF Commander Amir Eshel.
This year's ceremony marks the 65th anniversary of the IAF. The force's roots were established even before the state's existence, when the Hagana managed to get hold of a few planes.
The statistical breakdown accurately reflects a picture of Israel's population, IAF officials said. This year, 65% of the graduating pilots are from urban backgrounds, while 14% are from private moshavim. Only 6% are from kibbutzim, far different than the situation just a few decades ago, when kibbutzim supplied many of the IAF's pilots. Most are from the center of the country, and 12% were not born in Israel.
Half of the pilots grew up as middle children, while 32% are first-born, and 18% are the youngest in their family. During their time in the IAF's training program, 47% studied economics and management, 21% studied math and computers, 20% studied networks and systems, and 6% studied political science. All will receive a BA in their studies. Six percent of those in the program had already earned a BA before attending.
The dominant professions for the parents of the graduates is teaching, which 29% of their mothers engage in, and engineering, the area in which 26% of their fathers work. Most of the graduates are 21, with the oldest 26. Thirty nine percent were members of a youth group when they were growing up, half of them in the Scouts (Tzofim). For 15% of the graduates, this was not their first experience in the IDF, as they had served a year before joining the course. And, nine percent are graduates of pre-military academies, the IAF said.