Crop Duster and Light Aircraft Nearly Collide at Megiddo Airfield, Raising Safety Concerns

A crop duster and a private light aircraft nearly collided above Megiddo airfield on Friday, Haaretz has learned.

The Transportation Ministry's chief air accident investigator, Yitzhak Raz, received a report on the matter, and a meeting was held at the Civil Aviation Authority on Sunday to discuss the serious safety flaws revealed at the airport.

The flaws were partly blamed on the fact that both agricultural airplanes and sport gliders use the airfield on weekends.

The incident occurred when a crop-dusting airplane operated by the CHIM-NIR group took off from one end of a runway. Meanwhile, a Piper aircraft returning from towing a glider approached the same runway for landing.

"I finished towing gliders and was about to land when suddenly an agricultural airplane took off right in front of me, without warning," the pilot, former Civil Aviation Authority head Udi Zohar, told Haaretz. "I heard a radio warning from the ground just in time, alerting me because he was taking off in the opposite direction. I veered out of his way."

CHIM-NIR pilot Alon Krevetzki said: "One of our airplanes was positioning for takeoff. There was a report about an airplane approaching for landing, but it was still very far away. That plane's pilot was very agitated. When our airplane got permission to prepare for takeoff, the landing pilot started yelling over the radio, canceled the landing and made another round. I think he was annoyed about someone taking over his runway."

CHIM-NIR CEO David Golan said the flight safety situation at Megiddo was "dire," because of constant friction between agricultural aviation and gliding aficionados who use the airfield on the weekends.

"The glider guys behave like they're at a picnic," Golan said. "They often park gliders on the ground, with parts protruding onto the runway. They also sit by the airplanes to have a cup of coffee, and they take up the runway for prolonged periods of time, interfering with our agricultural airplanes."

Even worse are the problems in ground radio control, said Krevetzki.

"Communications are controlled by glider sportsmen, who are not professional enough," he said. "Besides, the communication post is at a runway intersection, with the noise from the airplanes interrupting the outgoing and incoming orders. I asked the CAA to find a technical solution for the problem."

Senior director of information and international relations at the CAA, Avner Ovadia, told Haaretz that the matter was under investigation.