El Al planes
El Al planes at Ben-Gurion International Airport in July 2009. Photo by Tomer Appelbaum
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The United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Monday ranked Israel's air safety level at category 2 for the second year in a row. Nigeria scored highest in the ratings, receiving a category 1 status.

Israel first received the category 2 ranking after failing to pass the FAA's inspection in 2008. That downgrade came due to the lack of adequate supervision by the Israeli Civil Aviation Authority over light, private and sports aviation.

Israel's attempts to return to its previous category 1 ranking failed, as the FAA's supervision team has not yet approved the Israeli flight safety improvement program. The supervision team is due to arrive in Israel after the holidays, and may restore Israel's flight safety status to the highest ranking come 2011.

State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss will issue a report on the matter next week, and is expected to recommend establishing a new national authority to investigate transport accidents.

The new organization would supervise the investigations of all aviation, naval and ground transportation accidents in Israel, similarly to the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). It would also be in charge of inquiries into public train and bus accidents.

Lindenstrauss has been examining civilian flight safety in Israel since 2007, following a report by a public committee on the issue. The committee found a series of safety deficiencies, including problems in flight control area coordination between military and civilian aviation authorities.

Other issues discussed in Lindenstrauss' report include the safety levels at Ben-Gurion and Ovda airports, and the quarrelsome relationship between officials in the Transport Ministry and the civil aviation authority, which affects the quality of transportation inquiries.

Avner Ovadia, a senior manager in the international relations and public relations department at the Ministry of Transport and Road Safety, said that the civilian aviation authority has made all the necessary preparations for returning Israel back to category 1 in flight safety.