IAF looking to double number of female pilots

A day before four female soldiers are set to receive their officer ranks at the Pilot's Course graduation ceremony, the IAF announced Monday that it plans to institute new regulations that will eventually double the number of female pilots. Under direct orders from force Commander Maj.-Gen. Elazar Shkedy, the IAF has decided to start summoning all 17-year-old females this summer, who are a year before enlistment, and show high scores on their pre-army tests to additional classification exams ahead of potential participation in the prestigious Pilot's Course. On Tuesday, a few dozen graduates of the Pilot's Course will stand in line near the runway at the IAF's Hatzerim Base outside Beersheba and will receive their lieutenant ranks. Among the graduates will be four female soldiers, the most to have finished a single course since the IAF opened the course to women over a decade ago. Seventeen women have finished the course since then. Until now, a woman who wanted to serve as a pilot needed to specifically request to be summoned for examinations. Under the new system, the IAF and the IDF Human Resources Department will review all female draftees and automatically summon those who appear suitable. Lt.-Col. Yossi Tshuva, head of recruitment in the IAF, said Monday that until now only 500 female draftees were summoned for pilot classification exams prior to their enlistment. By changing the system and process of evaluation, Tshuva said that, starting next year, 2,500 women will be summoned with the hope of choosing 30 who will be found suitable. "We believe in equality and after we already opened almost all the jobs in the IAF to women we believe that it is important to take this even further," Tshuva said. "Women play a significant role in military service and the IDF gains a lot from the integration."