New Safety Position Created at Ben Gurion

The Israel Airports Authority has decided to create a new position to monitor air safety problems at Ben Gurion International Airport following a spate of recent near-crashes there.

The position - head of the supervision and control department - will be at the level of deputy director general in the IAI's operational division. The decision is in keeping with a recent report on air safety in Israel.

On Friday, a Turkish airlines jet almost collided with an Israir plane carrying four pilots on a training mission near the airport. The two aircrafts missed each other by 1,500 meters - a distance an aviation expert called "a dangerously close margin" - after an air traffic controller authorized both planes to descend on the main runway at the same time.

That incident came the same week that Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz announced a new plan to train air traffic controllers and adopted the findings of a report that found serious oversights in flight control in Israel.

Training program

In addition to recommending that the IAI appoint a chief air traffic controller, the Lapidot report also recommended reorganizing the training program for air traffic controllers and mandating that the program include flight simulator training as a condition for renewing the traffic controllers' licenses.

In a meeting convened last week to discuss the report, Mofaz instructed IAI director general Kobi Mor and Udi Zohar, the director general of the Civil Aviation Authority, to "move forward as quickly as possible" to implement the report's findings - especially those connected to manning new supervisory positions in the aviation authority and installing advanced technology, such as automatic navigation systems and instrument landing systems at Ben-Gurion airport.

The Lapidot report also found that "there is an urgent need to upgrade Ben-Gurion airport on the aviation side," and describes various defects it says must be fixed.

No technology

"Innovative technology that could have eased the operation of Ben-Gurion airport was not implemented," the report said, calling it "critical and urgent" that an instrument landing system be installed on Runway 30. "The absence of this system has already caused many safety incidents, and it was a miracle they didn't end in disaster."

The report also recommended building a new control tower. It found that the current control tower is not high enough to meet international safety standards, does not allow air traffic controllers to see as much as they need to see, and is too small to fit all the people who need to work there at the same time.

The IAI said it has decided to invest between NIS 30 million and NIS 100 million in building a new control tower, out of the NIS 550 million it has allotted for safety and security until 2010.

The IAI also said it will send its air traffic controllers for additional training in teamwork and speech procedures and will be raising the number of air traffic controllers who go to Canada for training with a flight simulator.