IAF's fighter jets intercept Delta Airlines plane for lack of communication

Published 13 April 2009

A state of emergency declared at Ben-Gurion Airport after Delta Airlines airplane headed to Israel failed to contact control tower due to technical problem

We can think of a few things that would fit in the “Not A Good idea” category: One would be giving Michael Phelps three body-lengths advantage in the pool when you compete with him in a swim meet. Another would be keeping honking your horn while you are driving on the highway behind a group of Hell’s Angels on their motorcycles. A third “not a good idea” would be for a pilot to approach Israel’s air space without identifying himself.

This is just what happened the other day. YNet’s Eli Senyor writes that a state of emergency was declared at Ben-Gurion Airport on Saturday afternoon after a Delta Airlines airplane did not respond to the control tower’s contact attempts. After fighter jets were sent to escort the plane making its way to Israel, it was ascertained that a technical problem in the aircraft’s communication system prevented the pilot from contacting the control tower. The plane eventually landed safely at the airport on a side runway.

According to procedures, any plane slated to land at Ben-Gurion Airport must conduct a communication check at several control spots on its way to Israel, in order to confirm that the flight is taking place as planned and that the plane has not been hijacked. The Delta plane, which took off from New York early Saturday on its way to Israel, failed to contact the Israeli control tower as required. The fighter jet pilots made eye contact with the Delta pilot, who explained to them that the flight was going on as planned and that there was a technical problem in the communication system. The heightened alert level at the airport was lifted and the plane landed safely escorted by the two jets.

The head of the Transportation Minister’s security division briefed Minister Yisrael Katz on the incident as it progressed. A Transportation Ministry official said the incident would be looked into in the coming days.