50 years after graduating pilots course, dozens get their Golden Wings

Moving ceremony led by Israel Air Force Commander Maj.-Gen. Amikam Norkin who was born when the pilots were drafted

Former pilots with IAF Commander Maj.-Gen. Amikam Norkin (photo credit: MEIRAV GALAN)
Former pilots with IAF Commander Maj.-Gen. Amikam Norkin
(photo credit: MEIRAV GALAN)
IAF Commander Maj.-Gen. Amikam Norkin honored dozens of former Israel Air Force pilots, during a special ceremony marking their golden jubilee as graduates of the elite pilots’ course.
The Golden Wing ceremony was held at the Israel Air Force Center in Herzliya on Tuesday evening for some 75 graduates of the 56, 57 and 58 pilots’ courses, as well as the families of 22 fallen airmen. The Golden Jubilee ceremony, led by Norkin, was to acknowledge and honor the work of the airmen who led and held key positions throughout their military careers.
One recipient, Col. (res.) Effy Ramon, graduated from the elite pilots’ course in 1964 and served for 10 years as a transport pilot flying the French-made Nord Noratlas, followed by the C-130 Hercules in the IAF and 40 years in reserves.
“It’s totally clear that to be a pilot has completely changed,” Ramon said. “The planes that we learned how to fly on, and flew on, including the Hercules, were totally different. Like navigation... Today you don’t have to navigate. You put in the coordinates of where you want to go, and you go. Back in the day, we didn’t have that.
Col. Effy Ramon receives Golden Wings from Norkin (Photo Credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
Col. Effy Ramon receives Golden Wings from Norkin (Photo Credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
“Flying is one of the most wonderful things there is. It brings you another dimension, a third dimension. Look at how birds are flying; it’s wonderful. I don’t know any pilot who doesn’t love to fly. But the flying today, pilots have so many more things, a lot more details – and not just about the plane but everything surrounding it. I could have only dreamed about it when I was a young pilot.”
Ramon, who flew countless missions during his career, recounted one of his most memorable flights which took place during the Yom Kippur War.
“We flew many missions during the war,” he said. “During the war we had to do simple missions of bringing supplies from Haifa to Fayed airbase in Egypt’s Sinai, which was under our control at the time.”
He was flying a Nord Noratlas aircraft at about 15 meters, “really just above the ground,” so that the plane would not be visible to enemy radar and surface-to-air missiles. As he approached the base and contacted the control tower, he was told that a helicopter, which was set to evacuate wounded troops, was unable to land, due to fog.
“If you continue flying straight, you are flying into dangerous enemy territory; if you take the wrong turn, you can also be seen by the enemy radars. It was very difficult,” he recounted of his approach and landing.
As he was unloading his cargo, with the engines still running, he was told that there were around eight severely wounded who needed to be brought back to Israel for urgent medical care.
While he told the commander of the danger of the mission since the plane was not configured for troop transport, “I was told that ‘if they stay here they won’t survive. You have to take them.”
After reformatting the plane and putting a sort of fence to make sure that the soldiers wouldn’t be able to fall out of it, they took off for Israel with a medical crew to take care of the wounded during the flight.
“I remember the entire time that the engines were still running on the tarmac. We were supposed to be at the airbase for a maximum amount of time, but I stayed on the ground longer,” Ramon said, adding that while taxiing on the tarmac towards take off, he was told that enemy planes were on the way to strike the base.
“But our planes came to take them out and so the enemy planes were too busy with saving themselves to concern themselves with me. I continued to fly really low to the ground and I took all the wounded back to home base of Tel Nof.”
Golden Wings (Photo Credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
Golden Wings (Photo Credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
Close to 50 years since that memorable mission, Ramon is hopeful that he can still meet the soldiers he saved.
Another one of the pilots who was honored was Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Yoel Feldshuh, Director General of Israel’s Civil Aviation Authority.
“It’s a really moving event by the Air Force to honor pilots who finished the pilots’ course 50 years ago. The course had a big impact on everyone who finished it,” Feldshuh told The Jerusalem Post.
While Feldshuh was excited to see old friends from the course, “there are many people who finished the course and who are not here with us,” he said.
“It’s always nice to see friends from the pilots’ course, and when your children and grandchildren see how far you’ve got, it’s exciting. You get to this age and you will understand how exciting it is.
“The Air Force gave me many tools for how to live my life,” Feldshuh added. “You take everything with you that you learned throughout your life.”
Gen. (ret.) Yoel Feldshuh receives Golden Wings from Norkin  (Photo Credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
Gen. (ret.) Yoel Feldshuh receives Golden Wings from Norkin (Photo Credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
Feldshuh served 26 years in the IAF and took part in the Yom Kippur War (where he shot down an Egyptian plane) and the First Lebanon War (where he shot down two Lebanese aircraft). He also took part in the first downing a Syrian MiG-21 jet on July 27 1979 by Israeli F-15 fighter jets, after two Syrian MiGs moved towards IAF jets to infiltrate into Israeli airspace.
For Norkin, who was born when the pilots who were honored at the ceremony drafted, it was a very moving ceremony.
“It is a very exciting ceremony for me as the Commander of the Air Force, to give you, who were drafted when I was born, Golden Wings. It’s a real privilege,” Norkin said. “The Air Force in 2020 continues to cultivate what you have built, the standards of the Air Force acts as a compass for us.”
“With your hands we are fighting for a better future for the State of Israel. Many of you have built up the strength of the corps and its culture, turning it into an air force that provides solutions to changing security challenges,” he said.
Norkin told the crowd of veteran airmen that the IAF has both ground and air personnel who are proactive and determined, operating in all arenas as attackers, defenders, intelligence collectors, extractors and more.
“I am very proud of the Corps,” Norkin said. “I’m proud of our commanders, it’s important that you know this. Now, 50 years after the first order that dictated the course of your life, you are wearing Golden Wings. You deserve it.”