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Modi’in seeks salvation from above

Residents hope authorities will spare them the constant noise of jets turning directly over the center of town as IAA tests new landing.

February 18, 2010 23:40
4 minute read.
A Russian-made Sukhoi T-50 prototype fifth-generat

T-50 311.187. (photo credit: AP)

Modi’in residents looked to the heavens with trepidation on Wednesday as the Israel Airports Authority conducted test runs of new landing routes over the city.

Last summer, residents took to the streets to protest against the proposed route, which would see jets of all sizes make a 180-degree turn over the center of town.

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The routes tested on Wednesday were meant to examine whether other, less intrusive, routes are viable.

“We didn’t come to Modi’in to live under a constant passage of planes. People came here for the high quality of life and to raise their children in a pleasant environment,” said Yaki Beja, an activist in the residents’ battle with the IAA. “When I first started looking into the different aspects of this, I thought that Israel’s airspace was run in a rational and ordered manner. What I quickly found out was that our airspace is just as much of a mess as everything else.”

Beja said safety was a worry, in view of recent near-accidents at Ben-Gurion Airport, but that the real concern was the noise. He and other concerned residents created a Web site called Clear Skies for Modi’in, which provides a platform for their activities.

Beja said the IAA had proposed a route that seemed as if it was designed to disrupt the population’s lives as much as possible. “According to their plan, planes would be flying overhead all day long,” he said.

“We urged the city to propose an alternative route that would fly to the west of the city. As far as we know, that plan was rejected outright.”

Modi’in’s Deputy Mayor Chanan Bernstein said the routes that were tested this week were improved versions of those prepared by the IAA and were meant to reduce the impact of the flybys on the residents.

“We were out in the field together with monitoring crews from the IAA and closely examined the effect of several routes to see if they were viable from both the safety perspective and the noise perspective. The results should be able to tell us the levels of noise each of the routes created and the pilots in the plane can tell us what the safety implications of each of the routes is,” said Bernstein.

One of the routes tested was farther to the south than the one originally proposed by the IAA, a route that Bernstein said would reduce the noise impact.

“I sincerely believe that if the southern route is accepted, the effect on the residents will be substantially lower than we first feared,” he said. “In the new route, the plane doesn’t turn around over the center of the city.”

Yishai Don Yechia, a senior adviser to the Ministry of Transportation, said the results of the trials would be analyzed over the next two weeks and the decision would be made soon after.

“We went to great lengths to take the resident’s comfort in mind. We chartered a special plane from El Al for the purpose and did all the tests we could,” said Yechia. “Believe me, if we didn’t care about them, we would have approved the original route months ago.”

Yechia said the new route would only be used for a year and a half, while a Ben-Gurion’s runway was under repairs. He said it would only be used in certain weather conditions, when other routes were inoperable.

“The route over Modi’in will only be used for instrument-assisted landings in specific cases and for a definite length of time. Our regular operations don’t call for a flight route over Modi’in anyway,” said Yechia.

If the residents of Modi’in have reason to be cheerful, it is because they don’t live in Holon, Even Yehuda or Rishon Lezion. In those cities, people are not only subject to regular flybys, they also have to hear them at night.

Holon Mayor Moti Sasson is the head of the Forum of Local Councils for the Prevention of Airplane Noise. The group is threatening the IAA and the Civilian Aviation Authority with a Supreme Court lawsuit for violating regulations forbidding takeoffs and landings between 1:30 and 5:50 a.m.

“The authorities are simply ignoring the law. They say they need to perform night flights because of the construction work at Ben-Gurion, but in the meantime we can’t sleep,” said Sasson. “I invite the executives in the aviation sector and the Ministry of Transportation to come spend a night in Holon and see if they could put up with it.”

Sasson said that mass protests and lawsuits were the last resort, but that ongoing discussions with the authorities were useless.

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