El Al Flight to New York Makes Emergency Stop in Iceland

Plane landed at airport in northern Iceland after flight crew and passengers smelled smoke in the cabin.

El Al passengers flying from Israel to the U.S. spent a night in Iceland last week after an emergency landing. The passengers were put in hotels, and departed 22 hours later.

The plane landed at an airport in northern Iceland after the flight crew and passengers smelled smoke in the cabin. An Icelandic technician traced the fire to a short circuit in a passenger television screen.

The malfunction was repaired, but Israel's Civil Aviation Authority did not give the Boeing 747-400 permission to take off for New York, and sent a certified technician to examine the aircraft.

The technician was flown from a European country, and he arrived the day after the emergency landing. The technician did not find any further malfunctions, and confirmed that the cause of the smoke had been repaired.

The delay disrupted transatlantic flight schedules between Israel and the U.S., and caused El Al financial damage.

The Civil Aviation Authority's insistence on sending its own technician, rather than relying on local services, is connected to the recent lowering of Israel's international flight safety mark, and the efforts to put Israeli airliners back into the U.S. Federal Aviation Authority's top category, said a prominent figure in Israel's aviation sector.

"The Civil Aviation Authority's protocol requires that the malfunction be repaired by a technician who is certified to work on the specific system in question," Avner Ovadia, director of the Transportation Ministry's international department, told Haaretz. "Because no such certified technician was there, takeoff was not authorized until a check was performed by a Civil Aviation Authority technician."