El Al flight to Zurich evacuated at B-G

'Post' columnist Michael Freund offers exclusive first-hand version of events.

el al evacuation 298.88 (photo credit: Michael Freund)
el al evacuation 298.88
(photo credit: Michael Freund)
Traces of cleaning fluids remaining in an El Al aircraft's motor after routine maintenance last week caused smoke to pour out of the plane's cockpit Sunday morning, forcing 126 passengers and six crew members on a flight to Zurich to evacuate. Jerusalem Post columnist and correspondent Michael Freund was on the flight, and gave the Post the following exclusive version of events: "There was an odor of smoke in the cabin, and passengers began looking around somewhat anxiously, wondering what was happening. The pilot got on the intercom and told us to get up from our seats and to exit the plane as calmly and as quickly as possible. "The inflatable emergency slides were opened, and we each had to slide down out of the plane onto the tarmac. "Fire trucks and ambulances arrived almost immediately, and all the passengers were told to move away from the plane and to stand on the grass along the side of the runway. "There was no sense of panic, and people filed off the plane in an orderly fashion - perhaps more orderly than on a typical El Al flight. "Even though many people were planning to make connecting flights in Zurich in order to continue to other destinations, everyone seemed to accept the situation about as gracefully as one could expect. "I was just grateful to God that the problem was discovered before we had taken off, and that we were able to get off the plane safely and unscathed. I'm sure that I won't be the only one who will be reciting the Hagomel (rescuer's) blessing in shul this week," Freund said. The aircraft itself reportedly sustained considerable damage from the smoke. Immediately after the incident, the airport was placed under high alert, which was subsequently cancelled. An El Al official told Army Radio that the airline was retrieving the passengers' luggage, and that the travellers were being treated to refreshments while they waited to board another plane to their destination. "This is highly unusual," the official said, adding that no El Al flight had been forced to use the emergency slides in five years. AP contributed to this report.