After ‘Shabbos Flight’ Scandal, El Al Faces Safety, Criminal Issues

YERUSHALAYIM -
Ben Gurion
El Al planes at Ben Gurion International Airport. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

With the negative publicity of the infamous “Shabbos flight” that – in the end, according to the admission by a much-chastened El Al – did not entail any violence whatsoever on the part of chareidi passengers, as had originally been stated, the airline has suffered from other scandals.

On Monday, it was revealed that a senior security officer for the airline was the organizer and manager of a drug-smuggling ring, which used incoming El Al flights to bring large amounts of narcotics into the country.

And on Tuesday, a report regarding a flight last March said that it was only bederech nes that a tragedy did not ensue – because El Al workers had overloaded the plane with 40 tons more of cargo than it could safely handle.

The report relates to a flight from Tel Aviv to Newark that took place on March 29 of this year. Due apparently to human error, the plane was overloaded with cargo, a situation that, according to the laws of physics, was likely to cause the tail of the plane to drag on the runway during takeoff. According to the report, the pilot noticed difficulty in taking off, but it was only in the middle of the flight – after checking data on how high the plane was supposed to be flying in order to navigate safely – that the error was discovered.

Armed with that knowledge, the pilot was able to successfully navigate to his destination, and land the plane safely. According to the report, passengers had no idea of what was happening, and the plane landed without incident.

As a result of the incident, the Transportation Ministry recommended installing equipment that would read the plane’s current weight and input it into the plane’s computers in order to determine the ideal altitude, takeoff position, etc. In a statement, El Al said that at no time was there any danger to passengers or to the plane.

Meanwhile, police said Monday they were investigating the case of the senior security official on the airline who is accused of importing narcotics. The official was arrested, and his remand was extended in a hearing Monday. Several other arrests will be made, police said, but they believe that the security official was in charge of the criminal network. In a statement, El Al said that it “takes the matter very seriously. We will await the results of the police investigation into this matter.”