Is it safe to fly in and out of Ben-Gurion airport?


By Miriam Shaviv
August 10, 2008
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This week, I wrote about the serious security implications of the story of the little girl who got left behind at Ben-Gurion airport while her family flew on to Paris.

How, I asked, could an airplane take off from such a security-sensitive airport with luggage on board that did not belong to any passenger? Isn't this a basic security no-no?

Now it emerges that the same problem exists on planes coming into Israel. As Haim Watzman blogs:

Here I am stuck in New Jersey, while the four suitcases checked by me and Ilana are in flight. In other words, while security at Kennedy International Airport kept Ilana and me from bringing hand cream into the secure area, our luggage was allowed to fly on its own to Israel. If a terrorist wanted to blow up an airplane, would he rather use a jar of Ponds or a large valise?

Meanwhile, the American Federal Aviation Administration has uncovered other serious security flaws at Israeli airports:

The FAA cited a lack of proper supervision from civilian authorities as the major problem affecting flight safety. Among other findings, the FAA found that Ben-Gurion International Airport suffers from serious flight safety shortcomings and cited Israel's especially crowded airspace as a serious safety concern.

The FAA critique comes after a civilian committee headed by former Israel Air Force Amos Lapidot issued findings a year ago highlighting severe shortcomings in flight safety at Israeli airports. The Lapidot public committee found that aviation safety in Israel is in a "catastrophic state."

The panel's final report criticized the infrastructure at Ben Gurion International Airport, legislation pertaining to the matter, and air traffic control systems, adding that Israel has not fully seen the technological developments of the last decades in the field of air traffic control. They called to increase supervision on air traffic control systems, and to better train the controllers, many of whom do not always speak in English or use the proper terminology.

Amos Lapidot resigned from his post as head of the committee in charge of examining flight safety two months ago, reportedly because the committee would not implement his recommendations.

The FAA is due to submit its final report in just under 90 days. There is a possibility that it will severely reduce the number of flights on the US-Israel route.

While I, of-course, in no way wish to see Israel suffering an economic blow, perhaps the threat of losing so much money and making it difficult to travel to America will be more effective than the "mere" threat of a catastrophic loss of human life - and those responsible will implement some urgent solutions.

 

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