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Airborne Mechanic Personal Column Release date 10.10.2018
Maj. A', the 118th ("Night Riders") Squadron's Technical Department Commander, looks back on his experiences in the IAF Airborne Mechanic Course. He talks about his life-shaping experiences as an aerial combatant, the friends he lost on the way and the helicopter he fell in love with as a child
Maj. A', Airborne Mechanic | Assisted by: Carmel Stern

I began my service as an aerial combatant ten years ago. Upon the completion of my cognitive and medical exams, I was accepted into the Airborne Mechanic Academy. I began the course's First Stage at the 123st ("Desert Birds") Squadron. My first flights on the "Yanshuf" (Black Hawk) helicopter included endless puking until my body managed to adjust itself. We performed basic cooperative scenarios alongside the combatants, with the airborne mechanics responsible for all persons involved.

Photography: The 118th Squadron

My schedule was full because of the countless flights, studies for tests and my responsibility to perform my missions on the ground as best as possible – these turned out to be strong influences on who I am. I found myself studying until the early morning hours, smoking my final cigarette before the final exam and then taking the test for two and a half hours.

Photography: Adar Yahalom

We concluded the First Stage and moved onto the Advanced Stage: we finally began flying. I've loved the "Yas'ur" (CH-53) helicopter since I was a child – I remember playing soccer in my neighborhood when two "Yas'ur" helicopters flew overhead. I knew that that was where I was headed.

Rising High
I arrived at the "Yas'ur" squadron where I began my service and met the two instructors whom I'd always looked up to – the two accompanied me during my time in the Airborne Mechanic Course. We participated in an evaluation flight on the first day with instructors from the squadron.

Under the management of the squadron, the second course cadet and I managed to perform the necessary flight scenarios: aerial refueling, cooperation with ground combatants and cockpit teamwork, among others.

Archive Photo

Near the end of the Advanced Stage, the instructor jokingly asked: "What do you guys think about deploying to Romania? Would you like to join?". He didn't manage to finish the sentence before I responded: "yes, obviously". We were in the midst of training for the exercise in Romania when we received a call from our instructor saying we couldn't join because of a lack of room. We were sad but managed to move on to the next mission – I was due to fly alongside Danny, the squadron commander. Danny briefed me for an hour, and I was filled with satisfaction and the will to face every mission I would face. We took off for the sortie, and thus a significant part of the Advanced Stage came to an end. We went back to the academy in Hatzerim and waited for the concluding test.

Archive Photo

We received a phone call a few days before the end of the course: "We have lost contact with a helicopter in Romania". A few hours later, we learned that the helicopter crashed into a mountain and all crewmembers onboard were killed. One of them was my instructor, Capt. Nir Lakrif Z"L, and the other was the squadron commander with whom I had just flown, Col. Daniel Shipenbauer Z"L. After driving for an hour, we arrived at the squadron and heard the horrible news. The cohesiveness and fighting spirit of the squadron's service members, the human connections, these compose the essence of the Transport Helicopter Division.

So who is the airborne mechanic? He is an aerial combatant, professional in technicality and well-versed in the helicopter's systems. The airborne mechanic is an inseparable part of the mission, which is based on precise, uncompromising actions. He operates with a vocation and a sense of responsibility for the safety of Israel and its civilians.