An emergency landing in Billings, Montana stranded some 299 passengers and crew after an engine malfunction on a flight from Tel Aviv, Israel to Los Angeles, California. Stuck in a small terminal there was no access to kosher food, but Montana Shluchim came to the rescue.
The incident happened early Sunday morning when pilots on El Al flight 5 got a report of engine trouble and were forced to land at the closest airport due to safety concerns. The flight departed from Ben Gurion Airport at 12:52am local time and was forced to land at 5:36am in Billings, Montana.
Billings Gazette reported that “because of the aircraft’s large size, it could not park at the terminal. Instead, a landing ladder was used to unload passengers. Billings has no customs agents at the airport for flights. Passengers were removed from the aircraft and then bused to an airport terminal in a process that took about 30 minutes. Passengers were being sequestered in a Billings airport terminal.”
One passenger, Hillel Fuld took to facebook in order to thank Chavie Bruk, Shlucha in Bozman, Montana, for making the two hour trip with food and volunteers to feed the stranded passengers.
“Eight hours later, we are still stuck in Billings, Montana and the plane that is supposed to pick us up is on its way from NY but still hours away. Everyone here is pretty restless since we aren’t allowed to leave the terminal, which is the size of maybe four average size living rooms. We are hundreds of people” Fuld wrote.
Adding “well, this just happened. The Chabad Montana representative drove two hours to bring us food. Endless cold cuts, hummus, eggplant, bagels, and much more. Two hours here and they have a two hour ride back. Unbelievable. This woman along with her beautiful kids put a smile on all our faces and upon her arrival, got quite the round of applause.”
He concluded “based on the constant smile on her face, she is happier to be here than we are to have her here. Some people are just so remarkable.”
Fuld’s facebook posts quickly went ‘viral’, gaining some 500 likes and hundreds of comments expressing amazement at the dedication of Shluchim. Many posted links to their website saying “we just left them a donation for their amazing work.”
“We apologize for the inconvenience,” an El Al spokesperson says. “El Al views safety as our highest value, and does not compromise on even the slightest concern.”
A spare aircraft from Newark, New Jersey, was being dispatched to Billings to enable passengers to complete their journey to Los Angeles International Airport.