jet - Nir Kafri - September 19, 2010
Israeli jet. Photo by Nir Kafri
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One of the cadets completing Israel Air Force flight school Thursday has a rich aeronautical family history: She is the daughter and granddaughter of air force pilots, and her great-uncle was one of the most prominent commanders in the air force in the 1970s.

It's not rare for pilots to be the sons of pilots, but Lieut. C., who is completing the pilot academy's combat course, is the daughter and also the granddaughter of one. On her mother's side, she is a descendant of the Harpazes of Kibbutz Mishmar Haemek; her grandfather, Oded Harpaz, enlisted in the Israeli army in 1951, and served in the light plane division after completing flight school. After military service, he worked in agriculture and flew fumigation planes besides working in the kibbutz avocado plantations. He died in a Piper plane crash at age 43, together with his oldest son, Guy, then a 21-year-old paratrooper.

Lieut. C. inherits the flying tradition from both sides of the family. Her father flew Phantom jets in the air force and is today an El Al pilot. Her mother works in education.

An additional close relative is Oded Harpaz's brother, Col. Rami Harpaz (res. ), one of the leading IAF pilots in the '60s and '70s and one of the first to fly a Phantom; in 1969, during the War of Attrition, his plane was hit by a ground-to-air missile, and he was held in an Egyptian prison for three and a half years. Harpaz is one of the writers of the well-known "pilots translation" of "The Hobbit" by R.R. Tolkien, which they translated from English into Hebrew while in captivity. After his release, he continued to advance in the air force; his last post was as commander of the Ramat David base.

Three women are completing the pilot's course this week (two pilots and one navigator ), which is an all-time high since the academy first accepted women 15 years ago. No woman has finished the course in the past 30 months, but according to a senior IAF officer, steps have been taken to raise the number of women who do so, mainly by encouraging women to enlist in the training courses that precede the pilot course.

A ceremony was held Tuesday at the Hazerim base, in which those completing the course received their ranks. Major General Ido Nechushtan, commander of the IAF, said that "a broad range [of cadets] finished the course and I am happy about these young women, who are all highly skilled." Nechushtan mentioned that the number of women in the air force engineering staff was also rising.