Mofaz Rejects Request to Halt Flights From Herzliya Airport

Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz yesterday rejected a request by the mayor of Herzliya to immediately stop all flight activities at the city's airport until the completion of an investigation into a plane crash that killed the pilot and all three passengers Friday.

"Until another alternative is found, the Herzliya airport will continue to operate as usual," Mofaz said. "There is no connection between the unfortunate accident that took place and the operation of the airport itself, since this accident could have happened at any other airport in Israel."

Mofaz also said flight activity has already been reduced in Herzliya, and limitations were imposed on the hours and flight paths of planes using the airport.

In addition to Mofaz, Herzliya Mayor Yael German had also asked the Civil Aviation Authority and Israel Airports Authority to suspend flights at her city's airport.

The request came after a light plane that took off from the Herzliya airport at 5 P.M. Friday for a birthday ride crashed in the process of turning around for the return flight. All those on board the Cessna 172 were killed immediately upon impact.

Investigators said they made progress in the accident probe yesterday, but have yet to determine whether the crash was due to human error, a technical failure or some combination of the two.

The remnants of the plane, which belonged to the FNA company of Herzliya, are being examined by a team headed by Yitzhak Raz, the Transportation Ministry's chief aerial accident investigator.

"It was only due to a miracle that the terrible accident did not claim even more lives," said German yesterday. "Flights at the airport must be stopped, as happens after every military flight accident, and the circumstances of the accident must be clarified, as should the reasons for the increasing number of accidents at the airport and the safety measures being taken to prevent future accidents."

Some 170 accidents or other flight-safety problems occurred this year, according to data presented by German, who is currently running for a third term as mayor.

This, she said, means "an accident every two days - a very worrying statistic."

"Unfortunately, the statistical significance is that if there was no accident or safety incident today, then we should get ready for such an incident tomorrow," she said.