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Golden Wings Release date 21.11.2018
50 years after receiving their coveted aircrew insignia, the graduates of Flight Courses 51 to 55 reunited and were awarded the "Golden Wings" by IAF Commander Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin
Tal Ben-Naeh

50 years after receiving their coveted aircrew insignia, the graduates of Flight Courses 51 to 55 reunited this week (Tuesday) and were awarded the "Golden Wings" by IAF Commander Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin.


IAF Commander Maj. Gen. Norkin awarding Lt. Col. (Res') Uri Shahak the "Golden Wings" | Photography: Alexandra Aksyutich

"It's exciting to award these 'Golden Wings' to you, who graduated from the Flight Course when I was born", said Maj. Gen. Norkin. "You joined the IAF when Israel was just 20 years old – it was under threat and faced economic and social challenges. You established the air force and educated entire generations of commanders and combatants. The group sitting here has combatants who were kept hostage and later returned to fly and fight for the IAF. Over three decades, you have led and commanded in order to ensure that Israel can thrive safely".

In Captivity
One of those awarded with the "Golden Wings" is Lt. Col. (Res') Uri Shahak, who was taken captive by the Syrian army on the second day of the 1973 Yom Kippur War. After attacking his target during an IAF operation in the Golan Heights, he noticed that a pilot in his formation ejected. Lt. Col. (Res') Shahak decided to stay in the area and his aircraft was hit by anti-aircraft fire. The aircraft caught on fire and he ejected seconds before its explosion.


Lt. Col. (Res') Uri Shahak preparing for takeoff in a "Kurnas" aircraft | Archive Photo

"I arrived at the 119th ("Bat") Squadron as a young pilot, converted to the 'Kurnas' (Phantom) aircraft and then arrived at the 201st ("One") Squadron in the summer before the Yom Kippur War. I didn't participate in most of the war because I was taken captive, but my personal war was there", shared Lt. Col. (Res') Shahak.

Uri was isolated in the Mezzeh Jail and underwent severe interrogations and torture. "I was taken captive before I joined my wife for her pregnancy test. I was kept in a cell for four months and spent the remaining four months alongside the other captive officers. The 'Red Cross' arrived at some point – I asked them if they could tell me my wife's situation, but they forgot about it".

After long months spent in captivity, Lt. Col. (Res') Shahak returned to Israel. One week later, his daughter was born – Lt. Col. S', who went down her father's path and is currently serving at the IAF Headquarters.


Photography: Alexandra Aksyutich

A Close Call
Another IAF veteran who was awarded with the "Golden Wings" was Maj. (Res') Ben-Zion, the father of Col. G', who is currently an IAF helicopter pilot. "Four 'Skyhawk' aircraft from the 102nd ("Flying Tiger") Squadron carrying bombs took off on an attack sortie on Egyptian targets in the Quneitra area. Two 'MiG-21' aircraft tailed the formation's fourth aircraft and prepared to launch an infra-red missile towards it. The fourth aircraft detected the 'MiG' pair and managed to evade them. That same pilot was my father", said Col. G'. "Dad, five decades ago you and your friends graduated from the IAF Flight Course and joined the operational squadrons in an era when impossible wars were fought for our home. You and your brothers in arms took part in designing the air force as we know it today – professional, courageous and groundbreaking".