On February 1, 2003, Colonel Ilan Ramon died upon the Columbia Shuttle when it broke apart over Texas.
Col. Ramon's career in the IAF was remarkable. Born on June 20, 1954 in Ramat Gan, Israel, Ilan excelled in his schooling. In 1974 he became a fighter pilot with the IAF, was one of the first F-16 pilots for Israel, he was the youngest pilot who took part in the 1981 Raid on the Osiraq Nuclear Plant in Iraq, and Israel's first astronaut.
Ilan was posthumously awarded the US Congressional Space Medal of Honor, the NASA Space Flight Medal, and the Distinguished Public Service Medal. He remains the only foreigner to be awarded the US Congressional Space Medal of Honor.
The love of flying runs in his family. It must for his son, Assaf has earned his wings.
Assaf Ramon, son of Israel's first astronaut Ilan Ramon, will receive his wings and officer's ranks this Thursday at a graduation ceremony for the Israel Air Force's pilot training course.To become a pilot for the IAF you must be the best of the best. For the IAF only takes the best students from Israeli schools, and only the best of these can even hope to become fighter pilots.
Ilan Ramon became the first Israeli in space aboard the Columbia, which exploded during its reentry over Texas in 2003.
Ramon was a colonel in the IAF and before joining NASA he held a number of staff positions at the branch's Tel Aviv headquarters.
Assaf Ramon announced his plans to follow in his father's footsteps shortly following the Columbia tragedy.
In 2006 he was enlisted in the IDF and successfully passed the IAF's grueling examinations and trials for the prestigious pilots course.
Ramon has also been chosen as valedictorian.
Several months ago, during a routine training flight in a Skyhawk A4, Ramon encountered a technical failure when the engine suddenly died.
Instead of injecting, as protocol dictates, Ramon, together with the flight instructor, successfully restarted the engine and safely returned to base.
Ramon is training to become a fighter pilot and following the course will be assigned to a squadron.
Ramon's graduating class is comprised of men only, most of whom are residents of cities, in stark contrast to the IAF's early days, when most pilots came from kibbutzim.
Young Assaf is following in his father's footsteps, but also blazing his own trail upon the skies.