Scare for tour groups as Israel flight is turned back

By Jennifer Lipman, July 13, 2012

There was a scare for British teenagers setting out on Israel tours when their El Al flight was forced to turn back to Heathrow 20 minutes after take-off because of a fire in one of the engines.

Groups from BBYO and the Jewish Lads’ and Girls’ Brigade were among more than 400 people on board the El Al flight LY318, which took off at 1am from Heathrow last Thursday.

But as the plane soared to 26,000 feet, a loud noise was heard, after which passengers noticed smoke under the wing. There was also a smell of burning in the cabin. The pilot turned the 747 around and made an emergency landing at Heathrow. No one was hurt.

The tour groups were put up in a hotel for the night and caught a special flight out of Luton on Thursday evening, along with the rest of the passengers. Tour leaders rearranged schedules with Israeli organisers to take account of the delayed arrival.

“The plane was not in danger,” the captain, reserve Israel Air Force Colonel Ilan Margalit, told the Israeli media. “I could have continued to fly to Tel Aviv on three engines, but we’re educated at El Al not to take any risk.”

Last updated: 1:10pm, July 13 2012