Most air traffic in Israel resumed Friday morning using emergency jet fuel supplies after the discovery Thursday of contaminated jet fuel at airports throughout the country. It forced the shutdown of all airplane refueling at Ben-Gurion Airport, causing the cancelation of scores of flights.
Terrorism and sabotage were both ruled out, according to media reports.
When air traffic resumed Friday morning, planes were loaded with enough fuel to allow them to fly to Cyprus or Jordan, where they were then loaded with enough fuel for their scheduled trip.
The fuel contamination caused major problems Thursday in New York. It forced El Al Airlines to order an abrupt delay of its 10 a.m. flight from John F. Kennedy Airport to Tel Aviv just as the plane was taxiing for take-off.
“We started to taxi and then the plane stopped and we were told there was a slight problem that would delay the take-off,” said Judith Schwed, a passenger on the Boeing 747. “Then they told us that the fuel might be infected because this plane had just come from Israel and there was still petrol on the plane from Israel.”
A half-hour later, the pilot announced that the fuel check would take longer than expected and the plane returned to the gate, said Schwed, a development director at Amit. The plane departed at 4 p.m. Eastern time.
Sheryl Stein, an El Al spokeswoman, said the fuel contamination had forced El Al to cancel its flight 011 that was to have arrived at 8:30 p.m. Thursday. As a result, El Al’s flight 008 that was to have flown at midnight from Kennedy to Ben-Gurion Airport was canceled.
Stein said, however, that Friday’s 12:10 a.m. flight 027 from Tel Aviv to Newark arrived an hour late Friday morning because of a fuel stopover. And she said flight 001 from Tel Aviv that was to have departed at 1 a.m. Friday stopped for refueling in Cyprus and was scheduled to arrive at Kennedy at 11 a.m. instead of 6 a.m.
The cause of the fuel contamination is unknown and the Israel Airport Authority has launched an investigation. A ministerial commission of inquiry has been established to investigate.