I was recently travelling through JFK in New York City and saw the El Al 747, presumably arrived as ELY1 and departing as ELY4, sitting on the apron near terminal 4. What I saw was similar to as shown in the video capture below. The fellow plane-nerd I was travelling with claimed that it was parked there because the onboard missile defense systems of a El Al 747 include a pyrotechnic MAWS, which is considered dangerous to ground personnel. He claimed that this, in turn, is why the plane sits on the apron rather than at the gate or in a hangar (where it would be closer to maintenance personnel).

Source: Youtube Video VecKZ_S_1Jo

Which, if any, of these facts are true?

  • The MAWS on the 747 is the pyrotechnic type (such as flight guard) rather than the newer laser.
  • The MAWS on the 747 is considered dangerous by whichever governing body is salient.
  • The MAWS is the reason the plane is sitting where it is.

OR is this just a convenient spot to keep a massive object for the 5 hours it's not needed?

I would split these questions into three separate posts but they seem too closely related for that.

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    $\begingroup$ Given how busy JFK is and how difficult it is at most hours for arriving planes to get an open gate, it is most likely just parked there so that aircraft actively loading or unloading passengers can use the gates. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 26, 2018 at 20:34
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    $\begingroup$ Probably because a 747 is a rather large aircraft, and airports (even large ones like JFK) typically have finite gate/hangar space (which is especially important for very busy ones, like JFK). $\endgroup$
    – Vikki
    Commented Mar 26, 2018 at 20:55
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    $\begingroup$ If the onboard missile defense systems or the MAWS would be considered "unsafe", than it would not be allowed near the gate for any time. $\endgroup$
    – Klaws
    Commented Mar 27, 2018 at 9:03
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    $\begingroup$ So then the only truth in this is that some El Al plane, likely other than the 747 serving as ELY1, was fitted with a pyrotechnic system and that system is the one deemed unsafe by European authorities. $\endgroup$
    – user28387
    Commented Mar 27, 2018 at 13:00

2 Answers 2


Flare (pyrotechnic) type

According to Wikipedia and ynetnews.com, the flare system burns at low temperatures and doesn't pose a danger. Nonetheless Europe in 2006 objected to it and Switzerland threatened to ground El Al if such system was found on board.

"If we catch Israeli planes fitted with this system in our airports, they will be grounded," a spokesman for the Swiss aviation authority told Der Spiegel.

A plane that is deemed unsafe, would be unsafe anywhere at the airport.

El Al defense system

According to ABC News (2014), El Al carries the laser-type.

[The] new system, housed in a pod under the fuselage, employs an infrared missile-tracking camera, an "infrared (IR), ultra-violet (UV), or radar missile-approach warning (MAWS) sensor to detect a missile launch in the very early stages of an attack" and a laser system meant to jam the incoming missile’s "seeker" and "cause it [the missile] to be diverted away from the aircraft."

El Al seen at the gate at JFK and how planes move around

enter image description here

In this JFK time-lapse video, you can watch an Etihad plane being moved from the gate to a remote stand. At the gates is a parked El Al 747 as well. Later a Swiss airplane is towed from a remote stand to where the Etihad was.

enter image description here
(Source) El Al 747 at the gate. A passenger took this photo after deplaning at JFK in 2011.

Long wait

Sitting from 5:10 am to 12:55 pm is most likely the reason for it being moved away from the gate. According to the Port Authority, if the Air Terminal Manager ordered an airplane to be moved and it didn't move within 10 minutes, the airplane is charged extra for each 15-minute delay thereafter.


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    $\begingroup$ The system is called Magen Rakia (sky defender) or C-MUSIC, I found only an Hebrew wik page $\endgroup$
    – Rsf
    Commented Mar 27, 2018 at 8:27
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    $\begingroup$ Agreed that it was probably just away from the gate for normal operational reasons. I've definitely seen El Al 747s parked at the gate with boarding bridge attached at JFK T4 within the last year. $\endgroup$
    – reirab
    Commented Mar 27, 2018 at 17:52

Elal doesnt fly on Shabbat See Wikipedia That is why it is common to see it parked away from the gate.

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    $\begingroup$ While the reasoning is nowhere near what was speculated by the OP, this seems to be a perfectly reasonable answer, though the OP would need to confirm if the picture was, in fact, taken on the Sabbath. Not sure why this got a down vote. It's a little thin for what we like to see here in terms of an answer, but it's seems fairly complete (with a reference). $\endgroup$
    – FreeMan
    Commented Oct 29, 2020 at 16:26

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