Still grounded?
Photo: Yaron Brener
'Airport fuel crisis far from over'
Days after fuel contamination effectively suspends Israel's air traffic mysterious substance has yet to be identified. Ben Gurion International Airport still suffers massive delays; fuel shortage cripples national airfield

Three days have passed since a mysterious jet fuel contamination brought air traffic at Ben Gurion International Airport to a halt, and authorities still do not know what caused the problem.


Paz Aviation Assets, one of the airport's two major jet fuel providers, said Sunday that the German laboratory which received the contaminated fuel samples has yet to begin testing them.


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The Israel Institute of Energy and Environment, which originally tested the oily substance found in the airport's fueling terminal's filters, was unable to recognize its molecular structure; prompting authorities to rush samples to a German laboratory used by the US military. They, however, are said to have refused to conduct the test. The reason for the refusal was not disclosed.


The changing reports as to new possible contaminations have sent Israel's smaller airfield into chose: Sunday morning saw all flights at Sde Dov Airport temporarily suspended after concerns were raised that planes have refueled using a possibly contaminated reserve.


The Tel Aviv airfield also encountered difficulties using the clean fuel delivered to it from the Emergency Fuel Depository in Eilat.


The Airport Authority later cleared the airfield's fuel depository for use, restoring it to normal activity, but officials say those few hours have caused gridlock at the airfield, prompting its captains to divert all flights to the Ben Gurion International Airport. 


Fueling tanker at Ben Gurion Airport (Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)


Deputy Director of Israeli airline Arkia Nir Dagan said Sunday that he "never encountered this kind of a crisis and the situation is only getting worse. Sde Dov Airport activities have been paralyzed with delays expected at Ben Gurion airport as well. And it is just getting worse.


"There is a severe fuel shortage at Ben Gurion Airport. Paz and Aviation Assets must provide answers because it is impossible to operate Israel's civil aviation in this manner."


Eilat airfield did not fare better: the fuel shortage and contamination concerns cause severe flight delays and hundreds of passengers are still stranded. Eilat's lack of alternative airfield means that the situation there is worse than in other Israeli airfields.


Ynet discovered that so far, 300,000 liters of jet fuel were pumped out of Ben Gurion Airport's fuel reservoir so that they could be cleansed. The reservoir itself holds three million liters, suggesting it would take three weeks to empty out and replace the fuel.


Earlier, a Paz statement said that it has asked the National Infrastructure Ministry to weigh in on its dealing with the laboratory, adding that its fuel reserves have been tested again and found up to code.


The company added that it was exploring two alternative ways to carry out the fueling process, saying: "We have consulted a panel of senior chemists and Air Force and refinery specialists and all tests indicate that the jet fuel is clean."


Saturday saw the Aviation Authority subject fuel used for El-Al planes to rigorous testing, performed by Air Force experts. The findings have yet to be released.


The Israel Airport Authority told Ynet that it "demanded Paz supply written authorization that the fuel reserves at Sde Dov are clean and up to international code. Pending such a confirmation, their tankers cannot be used in any of Israel's airfields."


Paz said that "the fuel supplied to Sde Dov is from Israel's strategic reserves and was approved by the Fuel and Gas Administration. The tankers used to store jet-fuel in Eilat and Sde Dov as well as the tankers used to refuel the planes were emptied of the jet-fuel."


The damage caused by the fuel crisis so far has been estimated at millions of dollars.


Yoav Zitun contributed to this report



פרסום ראשון: 05.08.11, 08:10
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