TEL AVIV (Mar. 28)
El Al set a record for the first non-stop trans-Atlantic commercial flight by a twin-engined plane today, only hours after the International Federation of Airline Pilots Associations (IFALPA) ended its 39th annual conference here, the first ever held in Israel.
Coincidentally, the twin-engined Boeing 767 aircraft, adapted for long-range service, which El Al used on the 11-hour flight from Montreal to Tel Aviv was a subject of dispute at the IFALPA conclave.
The plane suits El Al’s needs. It is economical in fuel, requires a smaller cockpit crew and is easier to fill than the 747 jumbo jets when bookings do not warrant larger aircraft. But IFALPA has called on governments and on international civil aviation agencies to conduct further studies on the safety of twin-engined planes on long over-water flights.
The pilots insist that such flights be limited to routes over which there is never more than 60 minutes flying time between suitable airfields. They want the safety margin in the event that one of the engines fails. But some governments and aircraft manufacturers, including Boeing, maintain that the plane is safe for 90 minutes’ flying between airfields.
IFALPA is the umbrella organization of the various national airline pilots’ associations. Its first meeting in Israel was not attended by the British, Eastern bloc and Arab pilots groups.
The latter not only objected to the venue but rapped Libya and Greece as “offending states” because they refuse to allow hijacked aircraft to land at their fields. The pilots claim that a hijacked aircraft is an aircraft “in distress” and must be allowed to land in any country.
The conference agreed to suspend the ban on Soviet aircraft until the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) completes its discussion of the ban, imposed after Soviet fighter planes shot down a Korean Air Line civilian jet over the Sea of Japan last September, resulting in the death of all aboard.
The conference also rejected a proposal to declare woman pilots who are pregnant “temporarily unfit” for duty. IFALPA has some 500 women members.