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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Delays in flight schedules at Ben-Gurion International Airport were expected Monday following a decision by air traffic controllers to increase the time between takeoffs and landings.
The air traffic controllers claimed the move was made for safety reasons.
At the end of a two-hour meeting Sunday night between the chairman of the Israel Airports Authority Workers Committee, Pinhas Idan, and 35 Ben Gurion air traffic controllers, it was decided that "in the light of inadequate safely conditions, and until an appropriate safety infrastructure is in place, the air traffic controllers will operate more meticulously for the benefit of flight safety and travelers by increasing gaps between takeoffs and landings."
"We are doing everything for the benefit of passengers, flights and planes, in order to avoid any chance of an aviation accident. The air traffic controllers will continue operating in this way until changes are made to the Ben Gurion airspace," said Idan.
The air traffic controllers' decision followed allegations Sunday that workers at Ben-Gurion Airport attempted to cover up mistakes that nearly led to a collision between two flights last week.
A special meeting was called by Transport Ministry Shaul Mofaz to review events that led to the near miss, in which an Italian charter plane idled on a runway as an Israir jet prepared to land. Mofaz order that special disciplinary hearings be held to focus on the incidents.
The incident followed a string of similar ones that have been criticized by domestic and foreign aviation bodies. Representatives of the US Federal Aviation Administration investigated Ben-Gurion Airport last month and are preparing a report.
The Israel Airports Authority announced at the end of September that it would allocate NIS 550 million over three years to improve safety and security measures at Ben-Gurion and other border crossings. It said it would implement all of the FAA's recommendations.
In July, Tourism Minister Yitzhak Aharonovich said conditions at Ben-Gurion were "third world."
The IAA Workers Committee on Sunday issued a press release saying control tower workers do not receive enough backing from management. Despite "impossible work conditions," IAA safety supervisors successfully handled a record number of take-offs and landings at Ben-Gurion this summer, the press release said.
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