El Al Airliner Turns Back Half Way to N.Y.C. After Engine Failure

Plane returns to Tel Aviv after one of the plane's engine malfunctions; industry sources say economic reasons, not flight safety, prompted decision.

El Al via Bloomberg

An El Al airliner flying to New York City from Tel Aviv turned back to Israel due to a technical malfunction on Wednesday, even though it was already half way to its destination.

The Boeing 747-400 airliner, carrying 340 passengers, took off at 11:30 A.M. from Ben Gurion International Airport. Shortly after reaching the Atlantic Ocean, the pilot turned off one of the plane's four engines due to a technical malfunction.  But instead of making an emergency landing, the pilot turned the airplane back.

Sources in the aviation industry believe that the decision to turn the airliner back instead of landing it in Europe was not prompted by safety reasons alone, but by financial reasons as well. An emergency landing in Europe would have required El Al to send a replacement engine to Europe and to pay for the passengers' stay in hotels until the plane is repaired.

El Al said in response: "Due to a malfunction in one of the four engines, it was decided to return the airliner to land in Ben Gurion International Airport. The plane is currently over Europe and is expected for a normal landing in the evening."

El Al added that after the airliner lands, "the passengers would be transferred to alternative flights. El-Al considers flight safety a top priority and doesn't compromise on the issue."