Considerable Confusion about FAA’s ban on flights to Ben Gurion Airport—Answers below

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The above picture of the Ben Gurion Airport terminal at Tel Aviv shows little activity There is a lot of bad information being issued as to the reasons why flights have been cancelled – some reflects a lack of understanding what and why regulators take such actions, some negative aspirations may be attributed to politics and some demonstrate an ignorance of what aircraft can do in response to such threats.

The first two links (included ↓ below) explain the Notice to All Airmen (NOTAM) issued by the FAA. The Administrator, who is a Presidential appointee, but who exercises his authority based on the advice received from dedicated and knowledgeable career staff, extended the temporary (24 hours) prohibition against flying to an airport which was proximate to recent missile fire by Hamas. Unlike the MH-17 tragedy, in which sophisticated mounted missiles were fired at an aircraft flying at a high altitude, shoulder-launched rockets can be effectively used as an airplane ascends and descend. Like the MH-17 tragedy, it is unacceptable to put civilian passengers at such risk. The first article included ↓below reports that EASA, the pan European FAA, issued the same ban on their commercial aircraft flights into and out of Tel Aviv.

The next two articles (↓below) reflect the opinions of former Mayor Bloomberg and Senator Cruz (R-TX) that the Obama Administration has imposed this NOTAM for stupid and/or political reasons. That premise is easily refuted when it is recognized that EASA, which has a very different political supervision, made the same safety pronouncement. Is the Administrator being stupid or careful? His job description, which charges him with protecting the public, requires him to be cautious. He, too, might chose to fly to Israel, but risking another tragedy involves the exercise of a different judgment. Finally, after receiving assurances that the Israeli government can protect flights to/from Ben Gurion, the FAA lifted the restriction.

The last article (below↓) opines that the proof that there is no threat is that Secretary Kerry is flying into the same airport. Civil airliners are not equipped with the same high technology systems which can confuse and interdict rockets and/or missiles. This author is further confused when the article discusses why the FAA ban did not include foreign airlines flying there. It is fairly simple, if not axiomatic, that the FAA has no authority to compel aircraft of foreign countries to fly to a third country. Furthermore, all of Europe and other countries issued the same order to their airlines!

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