tel aviv (jps) | Yael Rom, the Israel Air Force’s first female pilot, died May 24 in Haifa at 74.
Rom earned her wings in 1951 and went on to fly DC-3, or Dakota, transport planes. She was one of two women commissioned as officers, and the first of five to fly in various capacities in the early IAF. As a 29-year-old reservist, she piloted the lead plane in a 16-aircraft formation that dropped the crack 202 Paratrooper Battalion on the Mitla Pass at the start of the 1956 Sinai campaign.
After working as a first officer for Arkia Airlines, she joined the Technion in Haifa in 1960, where she developed academic programs to boost achievement among minority groups, veterans and the physically disabled.
She resigned from the IAF reserves in 1963, following the birth of her first child.
Rom continued to work for gender equality until late in her life. She served as an unofficial adviser to the air force on the subject of women, as well as a liaison with the women themselves. In September 1987, she piloted the Na’aleh project, which steered young women toward careers in engineering and technology. In September 1997, Na’aleh became ORT Women 121, and appointed Rom its adviser on women in technology.
In a 2001 interview with the Jerusalem Post, Rom said the graduation of Roni Zuckerman, the first woman jet fighter pilot, was a vindication to her and the four other early women fliers.
“Being a pilot requires the highest quality of people. You have to be technically adept, and able to set and meet challenges and have coordination and mental aptitude,” she said. “I am very happy today that there is finally a new female pilot. It took a long time. And now they have to change the method to bring in more women.”