Featured image: Francesco Checcetti/airways

Airways Special Report: Handling the Threats

In the wake of Hamas’ October 7 surprise attack upon southern Israel, almost all international airlines serving Israel immediately suspended service as a precautionary measure, knowing that an inevitable Israeli ground invasion loomed ahead. In the ensuing war, rockets and drones have been filling the skies, not only putting civilian lives in jeopardy but also posing severe threats to the safety of civil aviation. 

Regardless, Israeli flag carrier El Al (LY) and Israeli leisure carriers Arkia (IZ) and Israir (6H) continued to put planes in the air, even as most airlines from North American and Europe suspended flights to Tel Aviv, in effect giving the Israeli airlines a monopoly. 

Israel's main gateway, Ben Gurion International Airport (TLV), named after Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion, is less than 40 miles (65km) from the front lines of the war in Gaza. Yet, the airport has remained open to receive civil aviation traffic throughout the war—unlike other war zones, such as Ukraine, which closed their airspaces from the moment war broke out. 

So, what makes Israel different? For starters, the country was intent on keeping its airspace open. It’s vital that people can leave, soldiers can return, and necessary goods and supplies can enter. 

The question is, how does Israel keep an airport open in a warzone?

Specific Routing

To ensure safety for civilian aircraft, the first and foremost mitigation measure taken by the Civil Aviation Authority of Israel (CAA) was to implement specific routing—especially the route planes take to approach Ben Gurion. After October 7, airlines flying into Tel Aviv have had to follow a specific route pattern from the north to ensure they stay away from the area of the conflict. 

The new routes are more northern than before, with aircraft flying just 10 miles (16km) south of the Israeli port city of Haifa. On arrival, aircraft begin their approaches at waypoint IVONA, at 9,000ft just off the coast of Israel. Planes maintain that altitude for 19 miles (30km), heading east before turning south and descending to 4,000ft for the approach to runway 21. The departure route follows a similar pattern, with aircraft taking off from runway 08 before banking left while quickly climbing to 10,000ft. The aircraft then head north before turning west near Haifa and out over the Mediterranean Sea.

Operations did not even come to a halt on the morning of October 9, when… 

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