What was to be a 12-hour trek from JFK airport in Queens to Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv became a nearly 27-hour test of endurance for passengers aboard an El Al flight, including Rabbi Dovid Willig and 20 of his 12th grade students from the Davis Renov Stahler Yeshiva for Boys High School in Woodmere.
The plane was delayed for 12 hours in Goose Bay, Newfoundland, necessitated by a fire in the landing gear. The DRS boys were headed to the Mir Yeshiva and to visit yeshivas they may want to attend during their gap year.
About five hours into the flight, which departed from JFK at 12:41 am EST, the pilot made an emergency landing at a military base in Goose Bay. The base sometimes accommodates smaller commercial planes, but not typically a 747. Because there were no customs facilities, passengers had to remain on the plane. Newfoundland is the easternmost province to the north of Quebec.
Passengers were told the delay would be two hours, but a mechanic had to be flown in, and they were forced to wait until 3 pm EST for another plane to arrive from JFK to take them to their intended destination.
While they were waiting, Rabbi Willig and the students lead the passengers in song and readings from the Torah, as everyone waited patiently for the second plane’s arrival.
Passengers wrapped themselves in blankets and they transferred between planes on the tarmack. At 7:24 am EST, the new plane left for Tel Aviv, where they arrived at 9:41 a.m. local time (2:41 am EST) after an otherwise uneventful second flight.