Modi'in residents fight proposed flight path that would 'scrape their roofs'

According to the new route, 190 planes will pass over the city each week, including 40 during Shabbat.

EL AL plane 1 248 88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
EL AL plane 1 248 88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
Modi'in residents are fuming over plans for a new flight path for planes approaching Ben-Gurion Airport that will disrupt their suburban quiet. According to the new route devised by the Airports Authority and the Civil Aviation Administration, 190 planes will pass over the city each week, including 40 during Shabbat. The Modi'in Municipality tried legal action against the two bodies, but the High Court of Justice last month ruled it would not intervene in the professional decisions of the aviation authorities. These authorities said that new technology requires the chosen flight path. This week marks the halfway mark for a 60-day injunction that has kept the new eastern-landing runway closed, before flights are to resume there. The new approach-path was established following a near accident in February 2007, when an El Al plane nearly collided with an Iberia flight. Just two months ago another collision was avoided when the automated landing system malfunctioned. The approach from the east, for planes flying in to Ben-Gurion from the west, originally entailed circling in a wide arc, part of which passed over Palestinian areas. According to the aviation authorities, the Defense Ministry intervened and imposed limitations which compelled the planning authorities to reduce the radius of the arc, and reroute the flight path over Modi'in at low altitude. However, the residents of Modi'in are deeply troubled by planes that "scrape the roofs of the buildings" at just 400 metres above population centers. After exhausting the legal system, the people of Modi'in are taking to the streets in the hope that public campaigning may provide sufficient pressure. Yaki Beja, head of the lobby group Clear the Skies Modi'in, is demanding an investigation of the eastern flight-path's effects on the environment and the inherent security concerns. "The Airport Planning Authority has spent many years in upgrading the airport terminals and installing the automated landing systems, but the serious air traffic problem hasn't been addressed in any proper manner," he said. "We insist on flights beginning their turn-around one kilometer earlier in unpopulated areas, or returning to the original path over the Palestinian territories which was used before the security imperatives were dictated." Beja warns that the low-altitude flights leave no room for any error - human or mechanical. "It would be catastrophic," he told The Jerusalem Post. "It's reminiscent of the El Al crash in Amsterdam in 1992 - we never want the possibility of that happening in Modi'in." The Clear the Skies Modi'in group has 4,000 members and is growing. Clear the Skies Modi'in are also applauding the move by the Knesset Economics Committee to create an independent group of flight planning experts to evaluate a series of flight-path alternatives. Currently the aviation authorities claim that they have researched all possible options and that the eastern flight path over Modi'in is the only option. "If public action can tear down the Berlin Wall, then we can change these flight paths," said Modi'in Deputy Mayor Alex Weinreb, who holds the city's environment portfolio. "One must also consider the environmental impact of these flight paths." According to Weinreb, the low altitude flights break the legal noise pollution quota each time a plane passes over the city. "This is simply illegal," he said. Furthermore, investigations by the municipality have shown that the proposed flight paths are in exact alignment with the paths taken by thousands of birds migrating between the Galilee and Africa twice a year. Weinreb says that the low-altitude flights will clash directly with these birds, which may cause a serious environmental disaster. "We can't change their migration path, but we can definitely change these proposed flight-paths," he said.