Israeli Jets Could Be Barred From U.S. if Facilities Fail Inspections

American FAA inspection will last four days and examine the flight-safety performance in Israel.

The Civil Aviation Authority says the United States could curtail the activities of Israeli airlines in the U.S. after the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration inspects the aviation sector here next week. Concerns have also been raised over a possible blow to Israel's standing in the international aviation sector.

The FAA inspection will last four days and examine the flight-safety performance of the Civil Aviation Authority, one Israeli airline, and Ben-Gurion International Airport.

The Civil Aviation Authority will be the main focus. Inspectors will see if the authority appropriately regulates flight safety, including planes' technical levels, their maintenance and pilots' skills. The FAA hopes to avoid accidents at U.S. airports involving Israeli airlines. If the inspectors find local safety levels to be inadequate, the FAA could limit or altogether block landings of Israeli airlines in the United States.

The public committee appointed to examine air safety in Israel, headed by a former Israel Air Force commander, Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Amos Lapidot, published dire findings last year.

The Lapidot Committee pointed to a number of serious problems in Israeli aviation; it particularly criticized the establishment of a new, more powerful Civil Aviation Authority to regulate the sector. The committee's report cited "the Civil Aviation Authority's very inadequate performance, anachronistic and irrelevant aviation law, and haphazard and insufficient ordinances."

The report found that Ben-Gurion Airport suffers from flaws and limitations. It also warned that the joint airspace used by both military and civil aviation is "very crowded, and not appropriately defined."

Lapidot resigned more than a month ago as head of the joint transportation and defense ministry committee established after the Lapidot panel published its findings.

Lapidot said that not enough is being done to implement his recommendations on the issue. Brig. Gen. Israel Shafir has been appointed by Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz to replace Lapidot to head the committee. Transportation Ministry Director General Gideon Siterman has ordered that efforts to promote aviation safety continue.