Ben Gurion Airport
Planes lining up for take off at Ben-Gurion Airport, April 2010. Photo by Moti Milrod
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An air disaster was narrowly averted last Wednesday as two aircraft, one a U.S. Air Force plane, nearly collided on the runway at Ben-Gurion International Airport.

In the wake of the incident - the third of its kind in recent weeks - the Israel Airports Authority is considering revising the system by which plans are instructed to land at or take off from Ben-Gurion, which is now operating only one runway because of construction.

Initial findings reveal that air traffic controllers instructed the U.S. Air Force plane to remain in the designated waiting area beside runway 12 ahead of takeoff. The pilot confirmed the instructions, but for reasons still unclear continued taxiing past the waiting area.

Meanwhile, an Italian charter jet was preparing to land on the same runway, having been cleared for landing. An air traffic controller spotted the American aircraft, and quickly instructed the Italian plane to delay its landing and continue circling overhead.

"The air traffic controller in the tower at Ben-Gurion corrected the pilot's error of not stopping in the waiting area as required and instead moving toward the runway," the Israel Airports Authority said in a statement. "The controller took the necessary steps of diverting the in-flight plane to continue circling before landing."

The near miss echoes a similar incident at Ben-Gurion last month, when a Turkish passenger plane received instructions to remain in the waiting area beside the runway ahead of takeoff.

Then too the pilot confirmed the message, but inexplicably continued taxiing past the waiting point toward the runway for takeoff as a Romanian aircraft prepared to land.

An air traffic controller spotted the waiting Turkish jet, halted the incoming plane's landing and instructed it to continue circling.