Assaf Ramon, son of Israel's first astronaut Ilan Ramon, will receive his wings and officer's ranks this Thursday at a graduation ceremony for the Israel Air Force's pilot training course. Ilan Ramon became the first Israeli in space aboard the Columbia, which exploded during its reentry over Texas in 2003. Ramon was a colonel in the IAF and before joining NASA he held a number of staff positions at the branch's Tel Aviv headquarters. Assaf Ramon announced his plans to follow in his father's footsteps shortly following the Columbia tragedy. In 2006 he was enlisted in the IDF and successfully passed the IAF's grueling examinations and trials for the prestigious pilots course. Ramon has also been chosen as valedictorian. Several months ago, during a routine training flight in a Skyhawk A4, Ramon encountered a technical failure when the engine suddenly died. Instead of ejecting, as protocol dictates, Ramon, together with the flight instructor, successfully restarted the engine and safely returned to base. Ramon is training to become a fighter pilot and following the course will be assigned to a squadron. Ramon's graduating class is comprised of men only, most of whom are residents of cities, in stark contrast to the IAF's early days, when most pilots came from kibbutzim.