Ultra-Orthodox Female Pilot Makes History by Flying Netanyahu to Greece

Nechama Spiegel-Novack becomes first female Haredi pilot to fly sitting prime minister on official visit; El Al pilot learned to fly in the United States

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Netanyahu, wife and El Al pilots - Nechama Spiegel-Novack on the right - heading for Greece
Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu, and El Al pilots - Nechama Spiegel-Novack at right - heading for Greece, June 14, 2017.Credit: Amos Ben Gershom, GPO

The El Al plane taking Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Greece Wednesday is piloted by an ultra-Orthodox woman – a first for an official state flight.

Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth reported Tuesday that Nechama Spiegel-Novack would be piloting the plane.

The mother of four began her pilot training at age 20 in the United States, which is where she earned her pilot's license.

She was accepted on El Al’s pilot training program in 2015 and completed her company training several months ago.

It took her longer to reach the required number of flight hours than most of her colleagues, since they invariably come from the Israel Air Force and log many hours on duty.

Spiegel-Novack went to flight school in the United States after attending the Beit Ya’akov seminary in Jerusalem.

She applied to El Al several years after receiving her pilot’s license, and returned regularly to the United States to fly, in order to make the flight hour threshold required of candidates for El Al’s training program.

When she was accepted to the training course in 2015, an El Al spokesperson described her as “an impressive woman with special abilities and a high level of personal qualities.”

She was quoted as saying at the time: “Being a pilot has always been a dream of mine. My husband is very supportive, and he is helping realize this dream.”

She reportedly interrupted her training to have her fourth child, returning to El Al earlier this year.

Netanyahu is flying to Thessaloniki for his third tristate summit with the leaders of Greece and Cyprus in the past 18 months.

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