Ron Arad’s pilot retires from El Al

Event comes week before 31st anniversary of fateful crash.

YISHAI AVIRAM (photo credit: IAF)
(photo credit: IAF)
Yishai Aviram, the former fighter pilot who sat in the cockpit with navigator Ron Arad on the fateful flight before he was captured, flew his last flight as a pilot for El Al Israel Airlines on Monday.
Aviram, who flew a Boeing 737 from Frankfurt, was met on the tarmac at Ben-Gurion Airport by firefighters who sprayed the fuselage with water to mark the occasion.
According to a report in Yediot Aharonot, the 65-yearold lieutenant-colonel will not hang up his wings but will continue as a flight instructor.
His retirement as a passenger pilot for the airline comes less than a week before the 31st anniversary of the incident over southern Lebanon in which his navigator, Arad, was captured by forces belonging to the Shi’ite Amal movement.
During a bombing mission in the First Lebanon War, Aviram and Arad were forced to ditch their plane after a malfunctioning fuse caused one of the jet’s bombs to prematurely detonate, severely damaging the F-4 Phantom II jet and wounding the two pilots.
The Israel Air Force immediately scrambled its rescue helicopters and Cobra attack helicopters toward the crash site in an attempt to locate and rescue the downed pilots.
While Aviram landed in thick vegetation on a cliff wall along a steep wadi, Arad was taken captive almost immediately by enemy troops.
Aviram’s dramatic rescue was captured on camera by the IAF, showing him clinging to the landing skid of the attack helicopter after leaping onto it from the cliff-side before it flew away under heavy gunfire. Aviram hung onto the skid of the Cobra until reaching Israeli territory.
Arad is believed to have been in the hands of Hezbollah after being held by Amal and is thought to have been captured by the Iranians after a failed escape attempt in 1988.
It is believed that he was taken to Tehran and later returned to Lebanon, but no signs of life have been received in years.
There have been reports that Arad has been presumed dead. The IDF officially lists him as missing in action.