Israir test flight nearly shot down by F16s

The pilot had crossed the border of a demarcation zone where aircraft must be identified to ensure that they have not been hijacked.

An Israir Airlines and Tourism Ltd. aircraft on a practice flight which failed to make contact with the control tower at Ben Gurion Airport was on the verge of being shot down last night by fighter aircraft, Galei Zahal (IDF army) radio reports. Upon approaching Ben Gurion, the pilot crossed the border of a demarcation zone where aircraft must be identified to ensure that they have not been hijacked.

This led to the scrambling of two F16 fighter aircraft from the Israel Air Force Control Unit which would have shot down the Israir aircraft if directed to do so by the Prime Minister and Minister of Defense who have the exclusive authority to issue such an order.

It was only after the fighter planes approached the suspect aircraft that it became apparent that it was not a hostile force. "The incident happened as the result of an oversight on the part of one of our most experienced pilots," said an Israir spokesperson this morning. The airline will be asked to provide a detailed account of the incident to the Israel Civil Aviation Authority.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes.co.il - on March 21, 2007

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2007

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