Israel - Another near-accident as planes land on wrong track at Ben Gurion

Israel - Early last week, at the height of the storm that hit Israel, an Italian and a Russian airplane landed in violation of instructions they received from the grounds crew at Ben Gurion International Airport. The cited reasons for the misunderstanding were poor visibility and a lighting error on the runway.

The Italian and Russian planes both landed by mistake on the wrong runway. The Civil Aviation Authority is examining the incidents.

The State Control Committee of the Knesset visited the airport yesterday, in the wake of a scathing report regarding aviation safety published by the State Comptroller three months ago.

Haaretz has learned that on Sunday afternoon, at the height of a severe storm, a Hercules plane belonging to the Italian army received instructions from the control tower to land on the Western runway. However the plane accidently landed on a different track, the central one.

About 15 minutes later, a Russian Aeroflot flight arrived and was also given instructions to land on the western track. But the pilot made the same mistake as the Italian plane and landed his plane on the central track.

According to initial findings, both landing errors were due to poor visibility and a mistake in the lighting system. Apparently, the landing lights turned on by the control tower were for the wrong runway.

This was not the first time that a plane has landed on the wrong track at the airport. In February 2009 a similar incident involving flight safety occurred. An Arkia flight that was on its way to pick up IDF troops also accidentally landed on the wrong track, which was being used by other vehicles and army personnel.

The recent report published by State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss concluded that the airport was not suitable for the landing of large planes, unless a fire truck and crew are brought in from Eilat.

On the same day as the averted accident, lightning struck an El Al flight from Zurich, Switzerland that was preparing to land at Ben Gurion. Lightning alone cannot bring down an aircraft unless accompanied by other severe effects from storm clouds.

In response to inquiries, El Al officials stated that the lightning caused no physical damage to the plane. The flight crew instructed passengers to stay seated and buckled up.

After landing the aircraft went through all the necessary checks and was released without any work performed. El Al officials explained that the plane was in direct contact with the control tower throughout the incident and that it was cleared to land.

According to El Al, the plane and its passengers were never in any danger.



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