Where Israel’s next int'l airport should be

Minister Shalom’s initiative to allow civilian aviation to operate alongside the military in Nevatim airport is both obvious and logical.

April 29, 2013 20:18
2 minute read.
Sde Dov airport

airport at sde dov_311. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Ben-Gurion International Airport will have reached full capacity very soon. By way of solution, Minister Silvan Shalom advocates opening the military airport at Nevatim to civilian aviation. Naftali Bennett and the Bayit Yehudi party also support Shalom’s initiative.

Shalom’s main opponent is the Defense Ministry, whose officials always terrify everyone about the potential catastrophes that could transpire should a shared airport should be approved. However, it seems the ministry has no idea what is going on in the US.

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The board of directors for the Tucson Airport Authority approved last week plans for an additional runway. The new runway is to run parallel to the busy existing ones. What does this news have to do with Israel? Tucson, Arizona’s international airport, hosts the 162nd Fighter Wing of US Air Force.

The 162nd Fighter Wing operates 72 F-16s in three squadrons. Furthermore, Tucson International Airport is a training center for not only US pilots, but also some of their international counterparts including Iraq, the Netherlands, Poland, Singapore and many more. The wing is scheduled to receive additional squadrons of F-35 stealth fighter jets and to grow to be the international training center for the new jets.

Defense Ministry officials have objected to opening the Nevatim airport to civilian traffic because two F-16 squadrons are stationed there, and because of the F-35 stealth fighter jets slated to arrive in Israel in three years (if the US does not cancel the F-35 program first because of the fiscal cliff and budget cuts). Why can civilian aircraft fly together with fighter jets in Tucson, but not in Israel?

The ministry has announced at the Knesset’s Economic Affairs Committee that the new civilian airport should be on an artificial island off the Greater Tel Aviv area. However, such an “airport in the sea” would be an economically unrealistic project for the State of Israel. For example, Kansai International Airport in Japan was built on an artificial island in the sea 20 years ago. Kansai airport is 69.57 percent as large as Ben-Gurion airport.

The total cost of Kansai Airport was about $20 billion.

Moreover, Kansai Airport was built in a bay surrounded by lands on most of its sides. Building an airport on an artificial island off Tel Aviv will cost much more than NIS 100 billion; for all intents and purposes such a proposal is pie in the sky for the State of Israel.

Minister Shalom’s initiative to allow civilian aviation to operate alongside the military in Nevatim airport is both obvious and logical. It is unclear why this has not happened yet.

The writer was a postdoctoral scholar at the Georgia Institute of Technology in conjunction with working at Delta Air Lines, Inc. He is now with Bar-Ilan University and Israel Aircraft Industry Ltd.

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