George Katz – a Mahal pilot who helped El Al take off

Appreciation: We were more like brothers than friends. I shall miss him and his great sense of humor.

By REUBEN NARUNSKY
December 6, 2011 05:43
2 minute read.
LASTING LEGACY. The exhibit tells the story of the

Mahal 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
X

Dear Reader,
As you can imagine, more people are reading The Jerusalem Post than ever before. Nevertheless, traditional business models are no longer sustainable and high-quality publications, like ours, are being forced to look for new ways to keep going. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analyses from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.

As one of our loyal readers, we ask you to be our partner.

For $5 a month you will receive access to the following:

  • A user uxperience almost completely free of ads
  • Access to our Premium Section and our monthly magazine to learn Hebrew, Ivrit
  • Content from the award-winning Jerusalem Repor
  • A brand new ePaper featuring the daily newspaper as it appears in print in Israel

Help us grow and continue telling Israel’s story to the world.

Thank you,

Ronit Hasin-Hochman, CEO, Jerusalem Post Group
Yaakov Katz, Editor-in-Chief

UPGRADE YOUR JPOST EXPERIENCE FOR 5$ PER MONTH Show me later Don't show it again

On Thursday, December 1, my dear friend Gad Katz (we always knew him as George), passed away at Meir Hospital in Kfar Saba after a short but severe illness at the age of 84. He was laid to rest at the Herzliya Cemetery later in the day, next to his late wife and son.

We met at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, where we played for the under-19 rugby team.

Be the first to know - Join our Facebook page.


In 1948, we joined the League for Haganah in South Africa and trained as Mahal (volunteers from abroad) pilots for the Israel Air Force. In 1953, we joined El Al Israel Airlines, but continued to serve in the IAF reserves until 1985, participating in the country’s subsequent wars as active operational pilots up to and including the First Lebanon War.

In 1955, George and I were stationed in London, flying the New York route for El Al.

Our firstborns were born there. Returning to Israel in 1957, we both checked out as captains.

In 1978, after having flown the Curtiss Commando C-46, the Lockheed Constellation, Bristol Brittania and flying and instructing on the Boeing 707, George and I were assigned to determine the configuration for El Al’s future Boeing 747.

We spent much time at Boeing’s 747 plant near Seattle, Washington, accepted and delivered El Al’s first few 747s, instructed crews and introduced the aircraft into service on El Al routes.



George went on to become manager of flight operations. I became 747 fleet manager, and we inaugurated direct flights to New York, at the time the longest commercial flight worldwide.

In 1987, at the age of 60, we both retired from El Al (60 was mandatory retiring age for pilots on international routes at that time), but continued to fly for Arkia on inland routes.

After a few months, we both decided it was enough and retired to our homes, which were close to each other. Our families have maintained close contact all these years. A week ago, my wife and I took George out for lunch.

It was a struggle for him; he said he found the strain overbearing.

We were more like brothers than friends. I shall miss him and his great sense of humor.

The writer was one of El Al’s pioneer pilots. His son Eytan is a 747 captain and instructor with El Al. His son Oren is a captain with Talon Air in New York and hopes to join El Al when it has an intake of pilots.

Related Content

Riot
August 31, 2014
Rioting resumes throughout east Jerusalem Saturday night

By DANIEL K. EISENBUD