El Al plane
El Al plane Photo by Nir Keidar
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The emergency landing of an El Al airliner at Ben-Gurion Airport yesterday was the latest in a string of safety incidents revealed here for the first time.

The Israel Airports Authority's safety incident report for March, a copy of which was obtained by Haaretz, listed several incidents that were never reported by the media, including one on March 15 in which a squadron of air force fighter jets failed to maintain proper altitude and got dangerously close to a foreign passenger jet taking off from Ben-Gurion.

In addition, the Eilat airport closed for half an hour on March 3 after several military helicopters crossed its airspace without authorization or coordination; a foreign airliner that had swerved away from a cloud bank while approaching Ben-Gurion on March 23 began descending toward the wrong runway and was sent by flight inspectors to circle round again; and a pair of civilian helicopters passed very close to a pair of military ones in the south on the country that same day. All in all, 96 safety incidents were reported in March, 67 of which involved automated systems.

Of these incidents, 35 were caused by human error, eight involved issues of procedure and administration, six were disciplinary incidents, 21 involved technical problems, seven were environmental incidents (such as bird or lightning strikes ), 11 were dangerous proximity incidents in which collision warning instruments went off, five were infrastructure incidents and the rest were listed as miscellaneous.

Three of the incidents were classified as very grave, 13 as serious and 80 as mild.

The number of incidents listed in the report was 1.5 times higher than the number reported in March 2010. But the summary said March 2011 did not deviate much from the yearly average and urged caution in drawing conclusions from the report.