Int'l Experts Can't Find Fuel Contamination, or Its Source

Israel may not have needed to ground planes after all during the fuel-contamination scare, according to preliminary findings of the International Air Transport Association team investigating the affair.

The team, analyzing samples of jet fuel from the incident which peaked on Independence Day, could not discern any signs of contamination at this stage, let alone anything that could indicate a source of the contamination.

Last month Israel suspended fueling planes for fear that reported contamination of unknown origin found in the jet fuel could gunk up and ruin their engines. The move caused intense disruptions of flight traffic to and from Israel, with planes that did make the route making stops in nearby airports to gas up.

The international team will be ending its three-day independent probe today in a meeting with Shmuel Kandel, manager of Ben Gurion International Airport.

Industry insiders suspect the order to stop all fueling of planes in Israel for a week had been unnecessary from the start. It should be noted that the IATA team has not finished its work.

The team includes experts on fuel. Today its members will visit the gasoline storage facility at the Bilu junction and will tour more storage areas at Glilot. Yesterday they inspected the fuel facilities at Ben Gurion.

IATA made a decision to conduct its own investigation with the blessing of the Israeli Transport Ministry. The National Infrastructure Ministry had held an investigation of its own but failed to find the source of contamination. Even the nature of the reported contamination remains unclear to this day.

After Israeli authorities headed by Transport Minister Yisrael Katz gave the local jet fuel the all-clear, saying it was clean, foreign airlines continued to bring in their own supplies of fuel, just in case.