El Al Zurich Flight Aborted on Takeoff as Smoke Fills Cabin

No injuries as passengers exit airliner via emergency slides; Transport Min. to investigate source of smoke.

A brief state of emergency was ordered at Tel Aviv's Ben-Gurion airport early Sunday, when smoke filled the cabin of a Zurich-bound El Al jetliner during takeoff, causing the takeoff to be aborted and the passengers evacuated, airport officials and passengers said.

In the emergency evacuation, the more than 120 passengers and crew on the Boeing 737 exited the plane on inflatable slides. Fire and ambulance crews rushed to the scene.

No injuries were reported in the incident, and there was no initial indication of the source of the smoke, which is to be investigated by a committee established by the Transport Ministry.

A passenger, Shlomi Safran, said that in the course of the takeoff run, "the airplane filled with smoke and there was a smell of burning. The fact is, that even before the flight, some of the passengers said they smelled fuel, and in fact, there was a smell of fuel.

"A second before the plane took off, at the point of no-return, the plan was filled with smoke, and the pilot braked and stopped the plane."

A second passenger, Yossi Chermoni, told Israel Radio that there wasn't any thick smoke on the plane, only a strong smell of smoke. According to Chermoni, the evacuation took seconds, although some of the passengers delayed the evacuation because they wanted to take there carry-on baggage with them.

Chermoni added that the Rescue and Fire Department vehicles arrived immediately, and transferred some passengers to the hospital.

Since El-Al has a code share agreement with Swiss Airlines, there were 30 Swiss Airline passengers on the plane. The next Swiss flight isn't until four P.M., so El-Al will make sure these passengers are put on earlier alternate flights to Europe.