Wait almost over? Passengers at Ben Gurion Airport
Photo: Yaron Brener
Neri Yarkoni: Serious and abnormal incident

Fuel contamination 'a serious incident'

Airport, Aviation Authority sources awaiting lab results of mysterious substance which led to grounding of dozens of flights Thursday. As first flights take off Friday, officials say 'first phase of crisis behind us'

The reason behind the fuel contamination that led to the grounding of dozens of planes remains a mystery but aerial traffic has already been renewed.


First to breath a sigh of relief are the Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball fans who were worried that they would miss the Euro-league's Final Four games in Spain – six of the flights authorized Friday morning left for Barcelona.


Transportation Ministry and Aviation Authority personnel held a situation evaluation meeting Friday morning and summed up "first phase of the crisis".


One of the passengers who was stranded in New York for hours Thursday night and is now awaiting a connection flight from Europe is the former head of the Civil Aviation Authority, pilot and attorney Neri Yarkoni. Talking to Ynet he said that this was a "serious and abnormal incident of international proportions of which no incident that I recall can equal."


According to Yarkoni, "only after the reason for the contamination is discovered will it be possible to know what brought it on and was it possible to have avoided it, including the legal consequences over the huge damages in addition to personal conclusions."


He asked to add "with caution" that "if anyone in a position of authority knew anything about the contamination and remained silent, this incident is criminal."


The fuel filters with the unidentified oily matter which led to the grounding of flights in Israel was transferred to labs in Germany for special chemical testing and initial indications may be available later on Friday.


The Airport Authority emphasized that in any case, the fuel in the planes themselves were up to standards and if the unknown substance was found to be harmless, planes at Ben Gurion Airport would resume refueling from the regular reservoirs through Paz Aviation Assets who is responsible for fuel supply.


If however the results show that the substance is dangerous, an operational procedure to clean all the fuel storage and transfer systems will be taken into consideration, a procedure which could take a few days to complete.


Either way, at least until Saturday, planes needing to refuel in Israel will receive enough fuel to get them to Amman or Larnaca where the refueling process will then be completed.


Special dispensation

The Airport Authority noted that "the first phase of the crisis is behind us, we are now left with finding out what the substance in the filters was. Out of the 23 planes grounded Thursday, 11 are still on the ground, but they have refueled and the reason for the delay is airline staff and operational considerations."


On Thursday evening, the National Infrastructure Ministry gave the Fuel and Gas Administration special dispensation to use its strategic fuel reserves to alleviate the situation.


Dozens of tankers were sent to the Pi Glilot Fuel Depot and then hauled jet fuel to the airport, were planes began taking off, sometimes as little as five minutes apart.


The IDF sent five fuel tankers to the airport as well, granting a request to that effect by Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz. Still, some of the planes were instructed to fly to international airports in Jordan, Greece and Cyprus, so they could refuel properly. Additional tankers have been sent to Eilat's airfield, where Israeli planes have been grounded since noon.



פרסום ראשון: 05.06.11, 12:13
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