A Jewish Pilot in the Land of Milk and Honey — Part 17

Getting from the west coast of the US to Tel-Aviv which was still in the British Mandate of Palestine was extremely difficult and used to take 4 to 5 weeks. Palestine was in a turmoil of fighting between Arabs and Jews. The only air communication were sporadic flights by a Douglas DC3 of Air France from Paris to the Tel-Aviv Dov Airfield. Ships went on sailing to Haifa harbor  from ports in Europe.
All the trainees which were washed-out from the Bakersfield flying-course declared that they graduated from the course. None of them showed a Log-Book. The Hagana Air Service was active since the end of WW2 and up to May 15, 1948 when the State of Israel was declared, and the Israel Defence Army, Navy and Air-Force were formed. Every person who arrived during this transit-period and declared that he was a pilot was flight-tested on the Auster “Autocrat” by an experienced flight-instructor. The reports which theseflight-instructors wrote about these 10 Bakersfield flight-trainees varied but were all far below “average”.
The girls were grounded. One man was grounded by the Air Force Physician. Four were killed. One was taken POW. One was badly wounded. All this happened during the last 8 months of 1948.
The two men who remained with me were Shlomo Lahat (Landau) and Meir Hofshi. Shlomo was the eldest in our initial group of 13. When WW2 broke out he volunteered to the British army and served as a lorry driver with the forces in Egypt and the Western -Desert. After the German and Italian defeat he was sent by ship from Alexandria to Malta. His ship was torpedoed by am Italian submarine and sank. Shlomo found himself floating in the Mediterranean thanks to his saving-belt. He floated for over 24 hours when an Allied ship found and rescued him. Shlomo was a serious and amiable man. Studious and hard-working. He made good progress during the course. Later on Shlomo climbed all the way up to Colonel in the IAF and did some interesting and valuable flying.
Meir Hofshi was younger than me, He was a member of the Aero Club Jezreel Valley branch. He had an A grade in gliding and had a good knowledge of Aerodynamics and Theory of Flight. Some people thought that he was reckless. I thought that he had an exuberant imagination. However, he made good progress during the course.
I started the month of May training on the Cessna T17 and then was given training in night-flying and sent solo night-flying on the BT13A. My training on the Cessna was mainly on asymetrical –flying and x-country flying while doing the navigating by myself. At that time there was a flight-navigation course at Bakersfield for the Reserve Pilots of the AAF of this district and we were allowed to join. Actually it was quite easy to navigate within the US. At that time the land was full of NDBs (Radio non-directional beacons) and Radio-Range stations. These two navigational aids enabled flying at night, in bad weather and totally ‘blind’ when in clouds, using your flightinstruments and these radio-aids and this is what I was trained to do on these x-country flights with the Cessna AT17. I came out of this course as a very good instrument pilot and radio-navigator and it was of great help to me in the future years.
In between these Cessna flights I used to go back and refresh all the exercises in low and high airwork and aerobatics flying the Fairchild PT26 and the Vultee BT13A. I went on night-flying with the BT13A and flew a long x-country flight with it to Palo-Alto, landing at Fresno on the way up and at King-City on the way back. On the 13 and 14 of the month I did 3 flights on the Aeronca Champion doing stalls and spins, side-slips and spot-landings. On the 16th I got checked-out on the Luscombe Silvaire which was an all-metal light airplane with a 65hp engine and then did a long solo flight on it. I did several more flights on it. It was a far more advanced lightplane than the Aeronca Champion. I had two interesting x-country flights with the Cessna: One to Los-Angeles and back and one to Lakeview, Oregon and back which lasted 4 hours and 40 minutes. With the BT13A I practiced mainly formation-flying and aerobatics and did a night x-country with the Cessna to Stockton and back. At the end of May I had logged 181 hours of flight-training at Bakersfield.
On the 29th the Bakersfield Sheriff came to Elynor and told her that he had a visit from some FBI gentlemen who asked him a lot of questions about her, about the airfield and about what was going on there. As soon as Elynor heard it she took Shlomo Lahat and Meir Hofshi and drove them personally to Los-Angeles. There she put Shlomo and his wife on a Pan-Am flight to Paris, France via NYC and sent Meir Hofshi by train to NYC.
I remained all by myself. Next day Elynor called me to her office and told me that she would like me to stay on for another 3 months in Bakersfield so that I would go on flight-training and in addition to the Private-Pilot Licence which I had received I would get a Commercial-Pilot Licence and a Flight-Instructor Rating. I asked her to let me think it over. On the morrow I went back to her and told her that I was very grateful for her proposal but I must decline it for it is my duty to return to Israel. She did not like my reply but said OK, in this case just stay on to complete your Advanced Flying School (210 hours of flight training) before leaving.

One thought on “A Jewish Pilot in the Land of Milk and Honey — Part 17

  1. היי אינס ודדי,

    סיימתי את קריאת “הסיפורים” המעניינים. הכרתי את חלקם אבל נהניתי לקרוא שוב.

    שאו ברכה, רני.

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