Probe of Near Misses Finds Serious Failures at B-G Airport

Untrimmed brush led to equipment failure, and two landing passenger planes had to be diverted to Cyprus.

A Transportation Ministry investigation into two near-crashes at Ben-Gurion Airport has revealed serious failures, Haaretz has learned.

Civil Aviation Authority director Giora Rom will be briefed about the findings by the Transportation Ministry chief accident investigator Yitzhak Raz, and by the security coordinator of El Al.

In the first incident, in late May, two passenger planes approached the landing strip at dangerously low altitudes due to faulty readings by the airport's instrument landing system (ILS).

In the second incident, last week, an El Al airliner began approaching a landing strip designated for a Uzbekistan Airlines airplane that was also landing at the time.

The new findings reveal that in the first incident, more than two planes actually were endangered by the equipment failure.

These two airplanes were attempting to land in heavy fog, and relying on the ground-based ILS system for guidance. A flight controller at the control tower noticed they were approaching at a dangerous angle, notified the pilots and redirected the flights to Cyprus.

The findings reveal that the malfunction stemmed from lax maintenance at the airport - thick vegetation growing around the ILS station interrupted its readings. The system could not be reset until the ground around it was cleared.

The Airports Authority had subcontracted the maintenance work to a private company.

In addition, the investigation found that the failed instrument had a back-up system that also had malfunctioned.

In the second incident, the investigation found the El Al pilot was at fault for not following control tower instructions closely enough and thus attempting to land on the wrong runway.