(Israel Twitter)Ben Ya'akov Airport (IATA: RPN, ICAO: LLIB), officially known as Rosh Pina Airport, and sometimes called Mahanayim Airfield due to its proximity to Mahanayim, is an Israeli airport located in Rosh Pina. It handles domestic flights to Tel Aviv's Sde Dov Airport. It also contains a reserve Israeli Air Force base.
The airport was created in 1943 during the rule of the British Mandate. It served the British army against the French army in Syria. In 1948 the airport was taken over by the IAF. In the 1950s, Arkia Israel Airlines began service to the airport, working from a hut which acted as a passenger terminal and air traffic control tower. By 1968, a new terminal building had been constructed and three years later, in 1971 a fire station and control tower were erected. Following increased activity, the passenger terminal was further expanded in 1994.
On 19 April 1974 two Sikorsky CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopters collided over the airport. One of the helicopters managed to land safely while the other helicopter crashed, caught fire and all of the eight IDF soldiers whom were in it died.
On 4 February 1997 two Sikorsky CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopters took off from the airport on their way towards Israel's "security zone" in Lebanon. The helicopters collided over She'ar Yashuv in northern Israel and crashed, killing all 73 IDF soldiers in the helicopters (see 1997 Israeli helicopter disaster).
Since the beginning of the current century the airport has seen a decreasing number of passengers (though this trend has stabilized since 2006). The main reason for the drop off in passengers has been the road infrastructure to the northern periphery of Israel which has been undergoing major upgrades starting in the early 2000s decade, leading to a viable alternative to air service to the region.
Year Total Domestic Passengers Total Domestic Operations
1999 168,915 21,647
2000 123,595 18,137
2001 127,123 19,593
2002 108,016 17,926
2003 80,277 15,706
2004 54,764 14,995
2005 45,306 13,149