Domestic air travel resumes after fuel problem

Source and composition of what’s found to be harmless contaminant still unknown.

311_el al plane (photo credit: Courtesy)
311_el al plane
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Domestic air travel was renewed Sunday morning after a weekend of mass confusion and irate passengers who had been left stranded following the discovery of contamination in the country’s jet fuel supply on Thursday.
The Israel Airports Authority said the “Paz Aviation Assets” gas company notified it on Sunday morning that the fuel supply for Israel’s domestic flights is safe to use, and that flights between Tel Aviv and Eilat were renewed shortly thereafter.
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On Sunday evening, Paz announced that the refueling of aircraft at Ben-Gurion Airport can resume, following a large number of lab tests carried out in Israel since Thursday.
They added that as of Sunday evening, it was still too early to gauge the effects of the fuel crisis.
Paz gave the airports the goahead after tests in Israeli labs showed that the foreign substance found in the fuel system’s filters did not pose a threat, though its exact makeup has yet to be determined.
Samples of the greasy liquid were sent on Friday to be examined at a US Air Force lab in Germany, but the lab has so far refused to perform the tests.
Israeli authorities turned to the lab in Germany after tests carried out by the Israel Institute of Energy and Environment were unable to recognize the molecular structure of the contaminant.
All international flights en route to Israel are still being instructed to ensure they have enough fuel to continue to their next destination before flying to Israel, or are refueling in Cyprus before landing here.
Outgoing international flights are being instructed to fill up in Cyprus as well. Delays are expected to continue at Ben-Gurion Airport for a few days at least, until the matter is sorted out.
The grounding of international air traffic is believed to have cost the economy tens of millions of shekels so far, a figure that will only increase until the jet fuel supply system is returned to its normal operating level.
National Infrastructures Minister Uzi Landau (Israel Beiteinu) on Sunday held a meeting to assess the problem.
Representatives of the oil refineries, testing laboratories, the IDF and others attended the meeting.
Later on Sunday, Landau praised the authorities for finding the problem before an accident occurred. “In practice, the most important thing is that the system carried out its mission and identified the malfunction before a disaster occurred,” he said.