Ben Gurion Airport.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A flight from Ben-Gurion Airport to Moscow was canceled due to technical issues, and it remains a mystery as to whether one passenger influenced the decision to keep the plane on the ground.
“We were sitting on the plane [on Sunday morning], and there was a very loud and strange noise on my side of plane,” Mussie Weinfeld, 22, told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday night. “I probably was extra scared because of what’s going on recently with airplanes and I felt really uncomfortable with it.”
Weinfield, a teacher from the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, was on board the 12:50 a.m. Transaero flight to Moscow, where she was scheduled to stop over en route to New York after spending Passover in Israel. Disturbed by the level of noise she heard from her seat next to the right wing, Weinfeld said she unbuckled her seatbelt while the plane moved toward the runway, demanding that the flight crew stop the engines.
“When the plane actually started moving I got even more scared, and I said I have to do something,” she said.
While Transaero did end up preventing the plane from taking off, due to a mechanical malfunction that technicians discovered, the airline denied that Weinfeld played any role in this decision.
Weinfeld, whose story was first published in the neighborhood news website CrownHeights.Info, told the Post that she approached the flight attendants, who immediately instructed her to return to her seat.
“I said, ‘I don’t want to sit down – I want you to go do something about it,’” she continued. “Then when I got back to my seat everyone took off their seat belts. Nobody wanted to take off now.”
The pilot stopped the plane and the passengers waited in their seats, receiving an update at about 3:30 a.m. that they were returning to the gate, to wait for a new 5 a.m. takeoff, Weinfeld explained. At the newly appointed takeoff time, however, the passengers learned that the flight had been canceled, she said.
In response to the events, a spokeswoman for Transaero said that claims implying that the passenger in question had saved the plane from an emergency were not true. The spokeswoman explained that while the crew was performing aircraft system checks after starting the engines, the “synchronism slats alarm” began to sound.
Slats are moving parts on the forward-facing edge of the wings.
Together with flaps, which are located on the trailing edge of the wing, slats are able to increase the surface area of the wings and augment the lift of the aircraft, particularly during takeoff and landing, when the velocity is low.
“The crew called professionals of the handling companies from Ben-Gurion Airport,” the spokeswoman said. “The diagnostics carried out by them showed that the aircraft could not perform the flight.”
Regarding Weinfeld’s complaints to the flight attendants, the Transaero representative said that “in the process of diagnostics, one of the passengers told the crew that she heard background noise.
“However, this information could not affect the removal of the aircraft from the flight,” the spokeswoman stressed. “There are very strict regulations in aviation for such situations. These regulations have been fully complied [with] both by the crew of the aircraft, and by the professionals of the handling companies.”
The Israel Airports Authority corroborated the comments made by Transaero.
“Immediately after the pushback, during the system checks of the plane, the pilot noticed that there was a mechanical problem,” the IAA said. “He returned to the gate. Their mechanic disqualified the plane from flying.”
Regardless of who was responsible for the technical failure’s discovery, Weinfeld said that “everyone was thankful at least that we didn’t take off with that plane.
“I said from the beginning that it’s very possible that they knew about it from the beginning, but no one told us anything and the plane was on the runway,” she said.