At the start of this month, Israel announced that it will be banning 4-engine aircraft from landing at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport with effect from 31MAR23. The reason? To reduce noise and air pollution, according to the Israel Airports Authority.
Commercial 4-engine aircraft include the Airbus 340, the Airbus 380, and the age-old cargo-favored workhorse, the Boeing 747, alongside the odd Antonov AN-124. “The increase in passenger and
aircraft traffic at Ben Gurion Airport is an environmental challenge... which we are going to solve by banning larger aircraft so that there are more flights with smaller aircraft, and therefore
more pollution...?” was one incredulous response on SimpleFlying’s Facebook page when the ban came out. Another responded with “That ban is ridiculous - it only applies to scheduled
flights - not GA, not VIP, and not military - which is 90% of all 4-engine aircraft flying into TLV.”
Greenwashing or a specific move?
It does beg the question as to why the ban? Simply to be seen as doing something with regard to sustainability, and glossing over the fact that it is pretty redundant from a passenger airline point of view? All passenger airlines into Tel Aviv operate twin-engine aircraft, and even Emirates, which recently began serving the destination, operates a B777 on the route, and not one of its many A380s. Over on One Mile At A Time’s (OMAAT) website, the author questioned if the ban was specifically aimed at preventing Emirates from shifting to an A380 service, since he could see no clear reason for it, the noise difference between 2 and 4 engine planes no longer being that great given that “technology has come a long way.” The theory was echoed by someone else over on Facebook: “Looks much like a pretext to keep Emirates' 380 out in order to protect EL AL's market share, esp. on Asia and Africa routes.” An OMAAT reader responded: “If the intent is to keep out the A380, they will likely harm air cargo companies more than Emirates with a 4-engine rule.”
“Do they not realize most freighters are 4 engines?”
Many comments on Facebook and other sites pointed to cargo being the biggest victim. “So, they are basically banning their own cargo airline?” one poster laughed. On IBA’s website, Director - Valuations and Consulting, and ISTAT Certified Senior Appraiser, Mike Yeomans was quoted saying: “According to IBA Insight, around 98% of 4-engine aircraft departures from TLV this year  have been freighters. Four-engine passenger aircraft numbers are dwindling, and few still operate from TLV following El Al’s Boeing passenger 747 fleet having been withdrawn from service in 2019. According to early reports, there are likely to be some exemptions under a license agreement – IBA believes such exemptions will be applied to Boeing 747 factory freighters, as there is no viable nose-loading alternative aircraft for oversized air freight.” The IBA experts pointed to the fact that converted Boeing 747 freighters would be most affected by the ban, and as a result, this could “drive demand for the [more environmentally-friendly] new generation of converted twin-aisle widebodies, including the Boeing 777-300ERSF, which is being developed by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI)…” Another deliberate move, therefore?
Challenge Group and a different challenge
CargoForwarder Global approached Challenge Group, given that its Challenge Airlines currently operate a Boeing 747 fleet, to find out if this will impact Challenge Airlines IL’s operations. The Group’s spokesperson stated: “First of all, we would like to point out that the restrictions on four-engine aircraft exist in Tel Aviv for 4 years now. We therefore expected that the Israeli Airport Authorities would one day extend it, resulting in this ban, but we did not think it would be so soon. For our part, we are in the process of renewing our fleet, in line with the Group's global strategy. Thus, we are investing in more efficient and sustainable twin engine aircraft such as the B767 and B777. At the same time, we are in discussions with the Israeli Airport Authorities to reach an amicable agreement.”
“But one thing is certain: we will continue to serve our customers and local Israeli trade, both import and export. In other words, by 31MAR23, we will be able to continue serving the Israeli market by deploying our capacity as we do today, and hopefully even more.”
Is it all worth it, really?
Is the ban really worth all the extra and additional hassle to supply chains in the interim? IBA’s article revealed: “Carbon emissions data from IBA NetZero reveals that four-engine aircraft represented only 0.8% of departures from Tel Aviv so far in 2022, and have accounted for 2.2% of total CO2 emissions on departing routes.”
Could it not have waited another few years until the B747-alternatives enter the market? The Airbus A350 Freighter will come in 2025, and the Boeing 777-8 Freighter two years later.
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