JERUSALEM, July 25 (Xinhua) — For the first time ever, hot air balloons took off from Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport on Saturday, the Israel Airports Authority (IAA) said.
The four balloons, flown by Israeli companies Rize Up and Skytrek, received the IAA permission due to the lower number of flights amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Dozens of aviation enthusiasts came to the airport to watch the event and photograph it, as the balloons took off on a runway near the airport’s main terminal, Terminal 3, reaching an altitude of about 2 km.
Recently, the IAA allowed aviation enthusiasts from all sectors, such as flying ATVs and ultra-light aircraft, to conduct special flights from the airport, which previously could not be possible due to heavy air traffic.
The Hebrew news website “Ynet” reported that one of the participants in the balloons flight was a 72-year-old recovered coronavirus patient, after being hospitalized in critical condition.
In mid-June, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu estimated that the opening of Israeli skies to flights would be on Aug. 1.
However, the number of new daily coronavirus cases has since jumped from a few dozen to more than 2,000, which has delayed the plan.
On July 20, Israel has extended flight restrictions until at least Sept. 1, following the recent sharp increase in morbidity.
The restrictions ban the entry of foreign nationals into Israel, excluding exceptional cases approved by the Population and Immigration Authority, with a 14-day quarantine obligation.