Airlines, Pilot Union Accuse Government Of Inaction
Israel's Transport Minister, Shaul
Mofaz, said he planned to call an emergency cabinet meeting to
discuss the problem of pirate radio transmissions disrupting tower
communications at Ben-Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv.
An illegal radio station in the West Bank city of Ramallah that
was the cause of serious disruptions was located and closed down
Thursday, said Communications Minister Ariel Attias. But,
interference is still occurring.
Mofaz, currently on a trip to the US, said he would demand
harsher penalties for pirate radio operators as disruptions
continued, forcing controllers to wait 10 minutes between each
take-off as a safety precaution, according to Haaretz. Departing
flights had been completely suspended Wednesday because of the
inability to communicate.
IAI director Gabi Ophir closed the airport again at 11:30 pm
Thursday night because of the tower's inability to effectively
communicate. The airport ordinarily closes to departures between
1:40 am and 5:30 am for nighttime noise prevention.
The situation has caused the cancellation of a multitude of
flights from such airlines as Bristish Airways, Continental
Airlines, Delta Air Lines and KLM.
Officials at several of the airlines reportedly voiced
disappointment at Israel's failure to adequately deal with the
problem. The head of Swiss International Airlines in Israel Avner
Gordon told Haaretz, "Before opening the skies up to competition
and bringing cheap airlines to Israel, you have to deal with the
existing infrastructure. A nice, efficient terminal is not enough;
you also have to make sure the planes take off safely from the
workers threatened to strike over the radio interference. The
strike was averted Wednesday after negotiations. The union's plan
was to completely shut down the airport between 8 am and 5 pm
The national airport worker union had also threatened labor
action if something was not done to stop radio piracy. The union
claims relevant ministries and law enforcement agencies are not
doing anything to avert a potential disaster.
Boaz Hativa, head of the national pilots union, wrote a letter
to the ministers of transportation, communications, justice and
public security, warning of the dangers of not taking action to
rectify the situation.
"To the best of my knowledge the pirate stations can be located
and closed before disruptions are caused to the communications
system. For reasons not entirely clear to me, this does not happen.
In practice, the stations are closed only in retrospect, after the
disruption to communications and the inherent risk to air traffic,"
"It is the Communications Ministry's job to locate the pirate
stations and the police's job to enforce the law, put a stop to the
stations' operations and ensure that those responsible for their
operating be brought to justice. These actions can and should be
carried out in advance and before disruptions are caused to the
The Communications Ministry said Wednesday it was working with
the justice and public security ministries "to eradicate the
phenomenon of pirate radio stations" and has shut down 50 of the
illegal stations so far this year.
The issue of pirate radio broadcasts interfering with ATC
transmissions isn't limited to Israel. ANN reported last year on
similar incidents in Ireland and Miami.