An American military plane nearly collided with an Israeli passenger jet in the skies over Eilat on Thursday.
According to Army Radio, the pilot of a C-130 Hercules, flying from Bahrain to Jordan, mistakenly tried to position his transport aircraft to land at Eilat Airport instead of Aqaba’s King Hussein International Airport.
The Hercules came within two miles of an Arkia plane on its descent into Eilat.
The Israeli control tower noticed the blunder and quickly warned the American crew.
In cooperation with their counterparts in Jordan, the Eilat tower was able to guide the Hercules safely to Aqaba.
This is the second near-miss incident at Eilat’s airport in the last two weeks.
On May 26, an El Al flight to Eilat with 100 passengers on board narrowly avoided flying into a mountain, clearing its peak by a mere 200 meters.
That plane — a Boeing-737 — was approaching the landing strip in Eilat when the control tower asked the pilots to circle and then return, because the runway wasn’t ready. What was supposed to be a routine procedure nearly ended in a tragic accident.
Flying without instruments, the pilots lost their sense of direction and flew west instead of south. It was a night with bad visibility and they didn’t notice the mountains looming in front of them, the report said. At the last moment, the pilots pulled the plane up and avoided the crash, but continued flying into Egypt’s no-fly zone before turning around.
The Transportation Ministry’s chief investigator was still looking into the matter, and in the meantime the pilots were suspended.
Israel Radio reported that there were at least two other serious safety incidents involving El Al planes in recent weeks, including one plane which approached Ben Gurion Airport at a low altitude, much closer to roofs of nearby buildings than permitted.
Aaron Kalman contributed to this report.