Papers Stolen From Aviation Authority May Foil Investigations

Theft of files that document flight safety violations stymies monitoring efforts.

Files and documents on Israeli ultralight aircraft have been stolen from the offices of the Israel Civil Aviation Authority at Ben-Gurion Airport. It is possible the theft was part of a plan to cover up failures and impede investigations of serious flight safety violations in the ultralight sector. The Transportation Ministry said it seems the theft took place over a year ago and the ICAA filed a complaint with the police at the time.

The files and documents relate to some 175 ultralight aircraft operating in Israel. Every plane has its own file with all the relevant information on the aircraft. Without the file, it is impossible to keep track of all the licenses and approvals given to a plane's owner, or to see all the limitations or warnings given to the aircraft.

Moti Kimche

It seems the documents were not computerized or backed up in any way. It is not clear how they can be reconstructed, if at all.

The mysterious disappearance of the files was only discovered after the State Comptroller's Office recently asked to examine the files. State Comptroller Micha Lindenstraus decided to look into serious revelations made in 2009 by the Transportation Ministry's senior aviation crash investigator Yitzhak Raz on ultralight aircraft. Raz found serious problems with the ultralight aircraft, and said the ICAA was responsible for some of the problems.

Raz found improper cooperation between plane owners, commercial firms and maintenance centers, and ICAA inspectors. Other findings included problems with the maintenance centers and their work; intentional violations of aviation regulations; and violations committed with the knowledge of ICAA inspectors - or at the least by their looking the other way.

The ministry said not all the files were stolen but only operating licenses, which the ICAA intends to abolish anyway as part of its new regulations. Therefore, there is no need to reconstruct documents that will soon no longer be needed.