Israeli, Italian Passenger Planes in Near Collision at B-G Airport

Israir plane prepares to land as Italian aircraft enters same runway for takeoff; El Al pilots notify control tower.

A serious airplane accident was averted at the last minute Sunday at Ben Gurion International Airport, when an Israir aircraft was preparing to land while an Italian passenger plane was about to take off from the same runway.

The Italian aircraft had apparently entered the airport's only operational runway accidentally, without being instructed to do so.

El Al pilots who were waiting for takeoff behind the Italian plane noticed the mistake and immediately reported the imminent crash to the control tower. The control tower in turn hurried to warn the Israir pilot not to land in order to avoid a crash.

The Israel Airports Authority launched an investigation into the incident, which it termed a serious safety failure.

In August, a report on the investigation of another near collision at Ben Gurion Airport, which occurred on February 8, revealed serious safety violations and antiquated equipment at the airport as the result of neglected infrastructure.

According to report, although a great deal of money was invested in the construction of a new terminal, no funds went towards improving the runways and control tower, and only one of the airport's three runways is equipped for automated landing.

In addition, the physical conditions at the airport make it difficult for the control tower to rectify the flight paths of planes flying too close to each other.

The report recommended installing equipment for automated landing in all the runways and building a new control tower or renovating the old one, as well as reconsidering its location.