History was made today, as El Al completed Israel’s first flight to the United Arab Emirates. The flight came following a historic peace deal between the two nations that was announced just over a fortnight ago.
Earlier this year, history was made when Etihad Airways became the first airline to operate a United Arab Emirates aircraft to Israel. The plane was carrying vital medical aid bound for Palestine. At the time, the flight was unprecedented, as the UAE didn’t have diplomatic relations with Israel. However, following a peace deal signed between the two nations, Israeli carrier El Al has now completed the circle.
A truly historic flight
Today’s historic first flight by an Israeli airline to the United Arab Emirates was carried out by an El Al Boeing 737 aircraft. According to Planespotters.net, the aircraft registered as 4X-EHD is five and a half years old. The Boeing 737 was delivered to the Israeli flag carrier on March 10th, 2015. Upon delivery, it was ferried from Boeing Field to Tel Aviv via stops in New York (JKF) and Paris (CDG).
This morning, 4X-EHD departed Tel Aviv as flight LY-971 at 11:21. This meant that the aircraft left eight minutes behind its scheduled time of 11:13, according to data from FlightRadar24.com.
Despite only departing minutes behind schedule, the aircraft appears to have faced a hold up in the air, landing at 15:38. This was 33 minutes behind the planned arrival of 15:05 into the UAE capital.
Saudi Arabia overflight
As historic as the flight to the UAE was itself, it was also notable that it flew over Saudi Arabian airspace. Permission is required to use this airspace on flights to and from Israel. In March 2018, for example, Saudi Arabia granted permission to Air India to overfly its airspace for flights to and from Israel.
Israir’s CEO recently mentioned that his airline was looking to establish scheduled services to the UAE. However, at the time, he remarked that no Israeli airline had previously managed to secure such permission. Indeed, even when Etihad flew to Israel twice earlier this year, the airline routed through Turkish airspace, avoiding overflying both Syria and Saudi Arabia.
A high-security operation
The flight to the UAE was carrying delegates from Israel and the United States to the UAE for the peace talks being facilitated by the United States. According to Reuters, the flight was also carrying journalists and agents from both the US and Israeli secret services.
According to the publication, the aircraft was fitted with the C-Music anti-missile system. This is something that is a standard addition to El Al’s fleet of Boeing 737 aircraft. The airline is the only commercial airline to have fitted its aircraft with anti-missile systems.