The Israeli Air Force is no joke – and neither is The Squadron, the new management training facility in Manhattan’s Financial District, where former fighter pilots use F-35 flight simulators to giving business and life lessons to business leaders.
Never before have civilians had access to these high-tech flying machines.
“This is the first time this has been offered at The Squadron,” says Kobi Regev, the company’s founder and former commander-in-chief of the Israeli Air Force. As an F-16 pilot, Regev flew more than 500 operational missions in what he modestly calls a “harsh” environment in the Middle East.
The 54-year-old believes the ‘lessons and methodologies’ he experienced during a 34-year career at the IAF made him the man he is today and could help n anyone to achieve the best version of themselves.
In 2018, the Regev team opened The Squadron’s first Center of Excellence in Tel Aviv. Over the past four years, 935 companies – including Coca-Cola, Microsoft and Google – have taken off in more than 5,500 workshops there, many of which have benefited from multiple visits; one organization returned 55 times.
Businessmen don flight suits and strap on military-grade Lockheed Martin flight simulators worth millions of dollars each. Before taking off, squadron instructors provide specific plans for a mission’s objectives, whether it’s improving teamwork or communication, perseverance or courage.
The 360 Degree Mixed Reality Practice is a one-of-a-kind experiential training program, offering customers the unique opportunity to “fly” an F-35 while providing insight into the “soft skills” of ace from the IAF, like how to deal with challenges in life.
“During the flight, we assess how you approach the mission, how you plan ahead, what kind of risk you are willing to take,” says Regev.
Afterwards, they offer debriefings highlighting all the ways the neophyte pilot succeeded or failed.
While The Squadron can produce complex statistical analysis of every simulator flight – speed and altitude, but also data showing, for example, where a pilot’s eyes are pointing at any given time – Regev says they don’t. are only interested in the personal growth of a pilot.
“By following our methods, you don’t improve by 10 or 20 percent – but by two, three, four or five times, which is a tool that people want to take with them,” Regev said.
Consider the CEO of Shake Shack a believer. Randy Guratti spent a day at The Squadron’s premises in Tel Aviv and reveled in the experience, saying that even better than the thrill of piloting the simulator – which he called “the greatest video game of all times” – focused intensely on self-improvement.
While Guratti was proud to have completed his first simulated flight without crashing, for example, his instructors suggested he wasn’t pushing himself. When he failed to control his speed on subsequent flights, they attacked his mistakes “in an organized and disciplined fashion”, slashing him in the cockpit every second to check how fast he was flying.
“More than just being super cool, the squadron uses a ‘Top Gun’ moment to teach attack challenges, leadership, collaboration and lifelong learning,” he told the Post. “I can’t wait for New York to open so I can come back with my whole team.”
Built in collaboration with Silverstein Properties, Squadron’s New York Center of Excellence spans 14,000 square feet on 10e floor of 7 World Trade Center, in the shadow of the Freedom Tower and overlooking the 9/11 Memorial. Officially opening on September 20, the facility includes 18 military-grade F-35 simulators, more than “double the number” that exist in the rest of the world.
“The Israeli Air Force only has two! Regev said.
When the Post recently visited, the squadron’s flight simulators were up and running, meaning this reporter was able to go “Maverick,” enjoying the kind of simulated fighter jet flight once only available to pilots. military.
Under the expert tutelage of Ariel Brikman, a 40-year veteran of the Israeli Air Force, and watching the 360-degree screen around me, I flew my F-35 around the runway from Tel Aviv airport and I roared into the sky above.
Pushing the throttle all the way in – I was channeling Tom Cruise, after all – and grabbing the joystick, I steered the jet over Tel Aviv and buzzed its skyscrapers. With Brikman’s help, there was a loop loop, so a second foray into the city was done entirely upside down. By the time my jet and balance were straightened out, we were flying fast and low over the sparkling waters of the Mediterranean.
But targeting a mysterious vessel in the sea below, this first pilot flew too close to the waves and crashed into what, in real life, would surely have been a watery grave. I had sunk my fighter plane.
Brikman shrugged as if it didn’t matter, explaining that the problem was not making mistakes but overcoming them.
“Being able to shake off the dust and keep going is one of the things that separates great from great,” he said.
And excellence is what The Squadron is all about.
“We all want to give you tools to be a better worker, a better teammate, just better, better, better,” Regev said. “The Squadron is about making you a better version of yourself.”