Light Aircraft: Gaping Security Breach

אילוסטרציה (123rf)

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Illustration (123rf)
Illustration (123rf)

A buckeye pilot landing in northern Israel on Saturday was attacked by two hijackers. They threatened the pilot at knifepoint and demanded he take off and give them a cruise. “I had no choice but to take off again,” he told Ynet. “I was afraid of being stabbed during the entire flight. I felt like a captive soldier, it was a nightmare.”

According to the report at first the pilot flew on his own, landed and then got attacked. He reported that before he took off he managed to call the police 100 hotline. Operators could overhear the loud argument and began tracing the call. “The flight took 17 minutes, but seemed like an eternity,” said the pilot. The man, an investigator for the Ministry of Transportation, managed to give a real time report of his progress to senior ministry officials, including Transportation Ministry Israel Katz and ministry General Manager Uzi Yitzhaki. “At some point the hijacker saw the phone in my hand and knocked it to the ground,” he said.

During the flight with the hijackers a ultra-light aircraft suddenly appeared in front of the buckeye, and the pilot signaled he was in distress. “The buckeye pilot signaled me to land because there’s a problem,” said Lior, the ultra-light pilot. “I took some photos. At first I thought there was a technical problem, but when I got to the landing pad a man was waiting there, shouting and clearly drunk.”

iHLS – Israel Homeland Security

Following the landing the hijacker stepped down from the buckeye and ran to the getaway waiting near the landing pad. “At first I didn’t understand what happened,” told the ultra-light pilot. “The buckeye pilot shouted that he has been hijacked and that I should write down the car’s license plate numbers, and so I did. He was very calm and resourceful, landing at knifepoint is by no means an easy feat.”

Local police has already started to investigate the case, saying that the identity of one of the hijackers is known. That’s it for the factual report. It highlights the problem of monitoring light, private aircraft, whether ultra-light or powered parachutes. In the past there have been attempts by terrorists to infiltrate Israel using these aircraft, but their frequency dropped. Hijackings of this sort present an especially severe threat.

This time it was merely an act of hooliganism, but experts told iHLS that it might have ended in a major terrorist attack.