In Scathing Report, Comptroller Warns of Dire State of Israeli Civil Aviation

Zohar Blumenkrantz
Zohar Blumenkrantz
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Zohar Blumenkrantz
Zohar Blumenkrantz

The Civil Aviation Authority has failed to maintain proper standards of aviation safety in Israel and has not been allocated sufficient government funding to adapt to increased air traffic, technical advances or international aviation requirements, State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss said in a report issued yesterday.

The 56-page report exposes the safety risks to air passengers that led the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration to downgrade Israel's safety ranking in 2008 and urged Israel to "move urgently" to build another airport as a way of improving aviation safety.

Israel already has another international airport - Ovda Airport, a civil and military airport near Eilat. But flight controllers have complained about safety flaws there, and a committee appointed by the Transportation Ministry recommended in 2009 that Israel should look into building another international airport in Megiddo "to improve aviation safety." The cabinet has adopted the committee's recommendations.

"The Transportation Ministry must move urgently to advance the plans to set up a complementary airport to improve aviation safety in Israel," Lindenstrauss said in the report.

One of the problems cited in the report is an increase in the number of takeoffs and landings on a single runway at Ben-Gurion International Airport, since its second runway is being extended. That could pose a safety risk, the comptroller says.

The runway extension and construction of a new control tower are due to be completed by late 2013.

In June 2008 a committee of transportation and defense officials was set up to examine the coordination between military and civil aviation. The committee was to present its recommendations by October 2008, but did not do so.

The comptroller also recommends setting up an independent committee of military and civil officials to probe what he considers to be inadequate inquiries into incidents involving both civil and military aircraft. In 2008 42 such incidents occurred and were investigated separately by the respective authorities.

"Israel's restricted air space is a national resource required for civil (private and commercial ) and military uses, which must be balanced," the report says.

Lindenstrauss says the authorities' foot-dragging has hindered moves to improve aviation safety. The faults persisted despite international reports and warnings of senior Civil Aviation Authority officials in recent years, the report found.

At the end of 2008 the aviation authority and the transportation and finance ministries took steps to correct the safety deficiencies appearing in reports prepared by the International Civil Aviation Organization, the FAA and a committee set up by then-transportation minister Shaul Mofaz.

The committee, headed by Amos Lapidot, presented 75 recommendations in December 2007. But the authorities ignored 15 of the 75 recommendations and only partially implemented 31 others, the comptroller's report says.

The Lapidot committee found the safety at Ben-Gurion Airport inadequate due to the structure of its runways, security restrictions and limited flight space.

The Aviation Law, dating from 1927, has not been adapted to today's international standards, according to the report, and was among the reason's for the FAA downgrade of Israel's safety ranking.

The comptroller blamed the Civil Aviation Authority and the Transportation Ministry for failing to move quickly to update the law, noting that such legislation was accelerated only after Israel's safety ranking dropped.

The Civil Aviation Administration Law, enacted in May 2005, was intended to streamline, regulate and further develop civil aviation. However, "the CAA and ministries' implementation of the law failed to bring about a fundamental change in regulating and developing civil aviation, and in improving its safety," the report says.

The ministries' delay in carrying out recommendations to strengthen the aviation authority's independence caused the loss of valuable time and impaired its ability to improve aviation safety, the report says.



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