Flight Controllers Stage Protest

Israeli flight controllers shut down Ben-Gurion Airport for three hours this week to protest broadcasts by pirate radio stations in the vicinity of the airport that interrupted control tower transmissions.

Radio interference is not a new problem for the flight controllers, but the decision to close the airport came after two planes had trouble landing because of the pirate broadcasts, the director of the airport authority said Monday.

Among the difficulties experienced that day, a French passenger plane was forced to switch to an international emergency channel in order to land when a Hebrew song appeared on the radio frequency the pilot was using.

A controller said that a Russian cargo plane also had difficulty landing because the pilot could not communicate with the control tower.

Because of the interference, a number of planes were asked to circle over the Tel Aviv area.

Some incoming flights were diverted to Cyprus, Turkey and Greece. Five flights were grounded, leaving some 1,500 passengers stranded in the airport.

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