Ben Gurion International Airport was the site of a near-miss last month, when an aircraft almost landed on top of a plane waiting to take off.
On June 18, an Arkia Airlines ATR-72 turboprop took off from Eilat's airport en route to Ben Gurion International Airport outside of Tel Aviv. The aircraft had four crew members and 11 passengers on board. Before landing, the pilot aimed the aircraft's instruments at Ben Gurion's Runway 12, but thanks to the fair weather and visibility conditions at the time, a decision was made to conduct a visual landing approach.
At a distance of about two miles out, the pilot began to lower the flaps in preparation for landing. After aligning himself with the runway, the first officer – sitting in the right seat of the cockpit, radioed that he had established visual contact with the runway, and was coming in for landing. The captain, who was sitting in the left seat, began going over the pre-landing checklist, then raised his head and saw aircraft lights at the end of the planned landing runway.
"The captain began to understand that something was wrong and immediately recognized that they were not aligned with the correct runway, number 12," the investigation report stated.
"At the same moment, the tower controllers at Ben Gurion began understanding that the aircraft was lined up with Runway 8 instead of Runway 12," the report continued.
At a distance of 1.5 miles out, the first officer turned the aircraft and began his approach on the correct runway, and landed the plane safely. The tower controllers then reported the incident to the Chief Accident Investigator's office within the Transportation Ministry; the pilots were questioned, the controllers' witness statements were taken, and radio communications recordings were collected.
The investigation's report labeled the incident "severe", as a result of the first officer's mistake, as well as a faulty crew briefing within the cockpit: "The offer to land visually at night led to the approach on the wrong runway," the investigator wrote.
"The visual approach to a lit runway, in a lit urban setting, is a challenge to flight crews, and has led to safety incidents in the past. The chances of mixing up between runway 12 and runway 8 when conducting a southern approach to runway 12 are significant. Increasing awareness of the issue, with both pilots and controllers, will help prevent repeating similar incidents in the future."