Pilots Strike Against Air Piracy Israel’s Air Traffic Suspended for a Day

Air traffic in Israel came to a complete standstill today as the Israel Pilots Association joined in a world-wide general strike of pilots and maintenance crews to back demands for international governmental action to curb aerial hijacking and terrorist attacks on air passengers. Service by El Al and Arkia, Israel’s overseas and domestic airlines, was suspended for the full 24 hours duration of the strike. A skeleton crew was maintained at Lydda Airport for emergencies and to land aircraft of foreign airlines not participating in the strike. But the aircraft that landed were given only minimal servicing which precluded their take-off until the strike ends at 8 a.m. local time tomorrow.

Although Israel’s vital air communications were non-operative today, the government fully backed the pilots’ action. “Israel will do everything in her power to make air traffic secure,” Transport Minister Shimon Peres said in a message to a meeting of the Pilots Association. He said that Israel would cooperate with the international aviation community in whatever steps are to be taken to make air travellers safe. Capt. Shimon Ash, chairman of the Israel Pilots Association, said that if today’s strike yielded no results, pilots all over the world would take further action to force the governments to adopt measures against air piracy and terrorism.

(While the effects of today’s strike remain to be seen, action on several fronts was already in the making when the strike began. United Nations Secretary General Kurt Waldheim said today that the Security Council would meet early next week on the issue. In Montreal the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) was scheduled to meet today to act on a US resolution calling for an international convention that would contain strong measures against aerial hijackers and terrorists and the countries that shelter or otherwise aid them.)

(TWA, a major US overseas and domestic airline did not participate but three other major US and nearby offshore carriers, Eastern, Northeast and Southern airlines, were grounded. In addition to El Al overseas carriers grounded included Irish Airlines, Scandinavian Airlines, Air France, Sabena, Air Canada, Alitalia, Lufthansa, Swiss air and Air New Zealand. Also listing no flights today were the Dutch KLM, Greece’s Olympic Airways and airlines of Brazil, Spain, Mexico and Turkey. Britain’s two principal airlines, BOAC and BEA reported limited service.)

(None of the Arab airlines participated in the strike which Cairo radio denounced today as an “imperialist, Zionist maneuver.”)

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