Israel’s small size is a direct indication of its aerial space, which it needs to divide between civil and military aviation. An officer from the northern ATC Unit and a Control Tower Commander explain how the two are combined and share the dilemmas and challenges involved in managing Israel’s busy airspace
Tal Giladi & Noa Wollman
Israel’s small aerial space hosts various aircraft of different kinds; this complexity makes it’s division a challenging task performed by a number of authorities in the IAF and the civilian world. “Aerial space is a resource that everyone needs to share. The IAF has exclusive control over the aerial space and is the highest authority in deciding who can use it, it can give the right to fly and also take it away”, declared Maj. Gidi, a Department Commander in the Northern ATC Unit.
Side by Side
Those who control the aircraft sharing the aerial space, also share a cooperative space. A room in the northern ATC Unit holds both Ground Controllers from the IAA (Israel Airports Authority) and IAF Air Traffic Controllers. “We need to manage this resource given to us in a supervised and sensitive way. By doing so, we are able to combine civil aviation, that is allotted an exclusive aerial corridor through which civil aircraft enter and exit Israel”, explained Maj. Gidi. “We sit together in the same room because as an ATC Unit, we must identify all of the aerial movement in the country. We work closely and a close discussion helps keep us aware to every irregular activity or emergency in the sky that requires a unique reaction or even a routine consultation”.
Local changes in civil and military aviation are indications of the whole aerial image. “In the past few years there has been a rise in the presence of hot air balloons and drones of all shapes and sizes. While simultaneously, civil aviation is expanding and more and more trade agreements are being signed with other countries”, noted Maj. Gidi.
Omer Avni, a ground controller in the IAA: “Around the world, Air Forces fly in their spaces and civil aircraft in different ones. We are a small country and our infrastructure requires a division of resources. As a result, there is a need for cooperation between the IDF and the IIA”.
Many Planes, One Runway
Takeoffs and landings are under the responsibility of control towers, while two IAF control towers, Sde-Dov and Ouvda AFB, need to divide their runways between civilian and IAF aircraft. “The runway is always crowded with dozens of aircraft: military aircraft that the base operates and civilian aircraft operated by civil airlines – we need to provide a response for all of them daily”, explained Lt. Bar Tzalah, Sde-Dov AFB Control Tower Commander. The tower is the authority that connects between the civilian pilots and the runway. “As a ground controller, I need to decide who can use the runway, we often face dilemmas around this question. On the one hand we don’t want to delay the passengers, but on the other, we need to consider their safety, as delaying IAF activity can mean harming the security of Israel”.
“In combat we take a step back and give the reigns to the IAF which decides to open the sky for civilian aviation or stop the flow of ingoing and outgoing flights for a specific time. During Operation ‘Protective Edge’ for example, we worked in accordance with strict protocols”, explained Avni.