Following in the wings of his grandfather: A young pilot's journey

“My grandfather was a pilot, but we didn’t really ever talk about it,” B told The Jerusalem Post ahead of the ceremony at Haterzim Air Base on Thursday night. “My grandfather flew a long time ago."

  First Lieutenant B (photo credit: IDF SPOKESMAN’S UNIT)
First Lieutenant B
(photo credit: IDF SPOKESMAN’S UNIT)

Forty years after his grandfather flew Phantom F-4 fighter jets in the First Lebanon War as a pilot in the Israel Air Force, First Lieutenant B received his wings as a fighter pilot.

B (his full name cannot be disclosed) never planned to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps. He was someone who enjoyed guitar and soccer in high school, never really thought about taking to the air when he got his military draft.

“My grandfather was a pilot, but we didn’t really ever talk about it,” B said ahead of the ceremony at Hatzerim Air Base on Thursday night. “My grandfather flew a long time ago, and he didn’t continue on in the force.”

When B got his draft to the IAF and passed all the exams and stages, “my grandfather was really proud. We spoke about the air force all the time, especially when I started to fly and when I began to fly fighter jets. It was as if he was continuing to fly through me and through my experiences.”

B, who will graduate from the elite pilot’s course as a fighter pilot, still has another six months of training on the Lavi jet trainer.

 First Lieutenant B with his grandfather. (credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON UNIT) First Lieutenant B with his grandfather. (credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON UNIT)

And while he does not yet know what he will fly on, “the F-35 would be cool,” he said.

While the F-15 and F-16 are great planes, the F-35 “is a new plane, and you always want to drive the newest car, so this is all-new, it’s groundbreaking, including how you conduct war. To be part of this would be amazing in terms of making history, to be part of history.”

“You have seen and heard the planes and crews from the base prepare and take off for operational flights many times. Along with your training, you have been exposed to the many responsibilities of each and every one of the aircrew members. Today, you join them, and very soon, the next task will be your mission,”

Brig.-Gen. Guy Davidson, Hatzerim Air Force School commander

Hundreds of Israeli youth try out for the elite pilot’s course, but less than 40 graduate. On Monday, 36 cadets graduated and received their officer’s rank.

“You have seen and heard the planes and crews from the base prepare and take off for operational flights many times,” Hatzerim Air Force School commander Brig.-Gen. Guy Davidson told the graduates. “Along with your training, you have been exposed to the many responsibilities of each and every one of the aircrew members. Today, you join them, and very soon, the next task will be your mission.”

B's excitement for the years to come

B said that being a pilot in the IAF “will be a challenging life, and a big responsibility. To fly a fighter jet at this age is amazing, but it asks a lot from us. The first three years [during the course] mean giving your life completely to the air force. The last three years were hard, but it’s just the beginning.”

Asked if he was worried about the dangers of being a fighter pilot in a force that carries out many perilous missions, B was blunt.

“Am I afraid? Yes, but not a lot. I’m here, and I see how things are run. I trust the air force – it’s professional, and the people are the most professional and knowledgeable. The moment I’m in the plane and close the canopy, you aren’t afraid, you are concentrated on the mission.”

According to B, who is from the Jerusalem area, he is now “sure” that continuing in his grandfather’s path is for him. “I enjoy it, and it’s an important role. Everyone has to do what they can with what they are good at. You have to be where you enjoy what you are doing and where you can give your best for the country. Here, I can be the best that I can be. The challenge and responsibility are big, but it’s worth it.”