Pilots: False Alarm Showed Flaws of New Security System

The National Pilots Association expressed firm opposition yesterday to a new system designed to prevent hijackings and terror attacks, after failings were revealed Saturday.

A Delta Airlines crew seeking to land at Ben-Gurion International Airport on Saturday failed to identify itself in keeping with the system to identify hijacked planes, Code Positive, which is currently in pilot. Israel Air Force planes were scrambled in response, even though this case turned out to be a false alarm.

"On Saturday one of this system's many potential failings was seen," pilot association chair Boaz Hativa told Haaretz yesterday. He added that the association would determine its official stance on the system after the pilot was completed.

Code Positive, developed by Elbit Systems, requires the pilot to relay a secret code by means of a smart card before entering Israeli airspace. The code is then verified by a special ground system. All international airlines will eventually be required to install the system.

Israel Air Force planes were scrambled Saturday when the passenger airliner failed to identify itself as required prior to landing. Only after the American pilot contacted airport officials was the plane allowed to land.

The investigation continued yesterday, led by top Transportation Ministry security official Danny Shenar.

The trial run, which includes Air Canada and Ethiopian Air as well as Delta, began in December and was scheduled to end within the next few days. The system was then slated to be fully implemented on all airlines flying to Ben-Gurion, but that process has been postponed, amid vehement opposition from pilots' organizations including the International Federation of Airline Pilots' Associations (IFALPA) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

Once put into operation, Code Positive will be used to identify not only passenger planes but also military and diplomatic aircraft, both foreign and domestic. Security for the latter was once handled by the Israel Air Force, but will now be the responsibility of the Transportation Ministry.

Shenar said, "We have decided to speak with the international pilots' association and IATA to explain the system to them."