Pirate Radio Broadcasts Delayed Six Takeoffs From Ben Gurion

Illegal station in Bnei Brak raided, owner taken for questioning; union threatens protest strike

Pirate radio broadcasts delayed six takeoffs from Ben Gurion International Airport today.

The director-general of the Israel Airports Authority, Gabi Abutboul, halted all takeoffs temporarily because of disruptions in communications between the jets and the control tower, due to the illegal radio broadcasts.

The affected lines included Lufthansa to Frankfurt, El Al to Barcelona continuing onto Madrid, El Al to Paris, El Al to Rome, British Airways to London, and Turkish Airlines to Istanbul.

The foreign airlines were infuriated at the delays. Swiss's manager in Israel, Avner Gordon, was handling the case of a jet with 230 passengers stuck on the runway, unable to take off.

"Before the state opens the skies to competition and brings in low-cost airlines, it has to handle the infrastructure," Gordon said. "It isn't enough to have a pretty, efficient terminal. The planes have to be able to take off safely. The nuisance of the pirate radio signals disrupting communications between the planes and the control tower must be handled decisively."

Apparently the workers concur. Labor representative Pinchas Idan threatened to call a strike from next week unless the communications disruptions are eradicated.

The police said they received a complaint from a Communications Ministry representative about a pirate radio station operating from Yehoshua Street in Bnei Brak, which was causing disruptions at the airport. The site was raided, equipment was confiscated and the owner, a 53-year old man, was detained for questioning, and released on bail.