Through the fog that settled over Ben-Gurion International Airport last night the weaknesses of Israeli aviation could clearly be seen.
In June this year, renovations of the runways at Ben-Gurion began, leaving only one runway in operation for all takeoffs and landings. While Israel does have an instrument landing system, it is not suitable for heavy fog. That is, Israel does not have instrumentation that is standard in European airports.
According to senior aviation figures, Israel does not have the system due to the high purchase and maintainence costs.
The Israel Airports Authority, however, says purchase of the system is in the works.
Captain Aviv Yosef, in charge of standards at El Al, told Haaretz that years ago, Ben-Gurion's director and the IAA's chief of operations promised him that one runway would be approved for landings according to more stringent standards, but nothing was done.
The lack of an alternative airport meant many flights headed for Ben-Gurion were diverted to other countries during the fog.
Just last week, Giovanni Bisignani, director general and CEO of the International Air Transport Association, visited Israel and harshly criticized the Civil Aviation Authority for rejecting Uvda airport as an alternative, and called for an alternative to be established, even at a military airfield.
The Civil Aviation Authority yesterday noted that Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz had approved a new airport at Timna, but its construction is years away.
For the past two years, Israel has been at a flight safety standard of Category 2 - of a third-world country. A great deal of money and effort will be required to bring Israel up to Category 1. Chaos the likes of which we saw yesterday is not encouraging.
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