Al Schwimmer was an Israel Prize laureate and one of the founders of the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI).
Adolph "Al" Schwimmer was born on June 11, 1917, in New York. He was an aeronautics graduate and a licensed pilot who served in the U.S. Air Force during World War II and was awarded a medal of valor.
In 1947, Schwimmer volunteered to help the Haganah acquire aircraft and began smuggling surplus war planes to Israel via Czechoslovakia. He also recruited pilots and crews to fly the planes, mostly WWII veterans, that would become the core of the Israeli Air Force. In 1950, he was convicted by U.S. authorities for violating the Neutrality Act through his plane smuggling operation. He was fined and stripped of his veteran benefits, but never imprisoned. He was pardoned in 2001 by then President Bill Clinton.
In the early 1950s, Schwimmer returned to Israel and established an aircraft company that would eventually evolve into the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI). When Schwimmer retired in 1988, IAI was the largest company in Israel, valued at $1 billion.
In the 1970s, Schwimmer served as technological advisor to the prime minister in two different governments and founded the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering at the Israel Institute of Technology.
In 2006, Schwimmer was awarded the Israel Prize for life achievement and his contributions to Israeli society.
Schwimmer died on June 11, 2011, on his 94th birthday, at Tel Hashomer Hospital in Tel Aviv. He was survived by his wife Rena, and their son and daughter, Danny and Daphna.
Sources: JTA, Ynet