Anarchy in the Air

The responsibility for the grave situation with regard to civil aviation in all its forms lies with Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz.

The serious findings by the Transportation Ministry's chief air accident investigator with regard to ultralight aircraft, as reported yesterday by Zohar Blumenkrantz in Haaretz, add weight to the grave picture regarding the safety of civilian aviation in Israel.

The investigator found that for the past ten years, modern and advanced ultralight aircraft have been added to the flight sector that do not meet the required standards and are prone to accidents. Of 146 ultralight planes - about one quarter of the civilian aircraft in Israel - more than 80 exceed the maximum weight permitted by the regulations.

Annually there are more than 10 air accidents involving ultralight aircraft here. Servicing the planes and proper maintenance and supervision could prevent these accidents from happening. However, the investigator found faulty maintenance of the aircraft at the centers that specialize in this work, intentional irregularities with regard to flight regulations, and violations of the law on the part of air-traffic controllers of the Civil Aviation Authority who simply turned a blind eye.

The last paragraph of the report is the most disturbing. Like previous reports that warned about the defective and even criminal norms of work, maintenance and supervision, this report paints a picture of corruption in the very body that is in charge of aviation safety in Israel.

Light planes received flight permits from the licensing department in the Civil Aviation Authority "by various and unacceptable means that contradict the requirements of the law." Moreover, in view of the close ties between the supervisors and those being supervised, local permits are issued on the basis of the supervisors' goodwill and without any clear policy dictated from above.

A mere three months ago, the Federal Aviation Authority of the United States announced that it was downgrading Israel's aviation safety rating. Two weeks ago, the European aviation authorities stated they were stepping up the safety tests for Israeli air companies in the wake of the American report. The international organization monitoring scheduled flights warned that Israeli airlines would soon be forbidden to land in Europe or even to over-fly the continent.

The responsibility for this grave situation with regard to civil aviation in all its forms lies with Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz. He must begin to do his job. He must give full backing to Giora Rom, the head of the Civil Aviation Authority, and demand of him fast and thorough action to eradicate the lawlessness in the air and save Israel's civil aviation from international ostracism and collapse.