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Libyan Arab Airlines Flight 114

Artist's rendition of Libyan Arab Airlines 727 5A-DAH and two Israeli Air Force F-4 fighters over the Sinai.CG
Occurrence summary
Date February 21, 1973
Type Shoot down
Site Sinai Peninsula
Passengers 104
Crew 9
Injuries unknown
Fatalities 108
Survivors 5
Aircraft type Boeing 727-224
Operator Libyan Arab Airlines
Tail number 5A-DAH
Flight origin Tripoli
Last stopover Benghazi
Destination Cairo

Libyan Arab Airlines Flight 114 was a regularly-scheduled flight from Tripoli to Cairo via Benghazi. At 10:30 on February 21, 1973, the 727-224 left Tripoli, but became lost due to a combination of bad weather and equipment failure over northern Egypt around 13:44 (1:44 P.M. local). It entered the then-Israeli-controlled airspace over the Sinai Peninsula, was intercepted by two Israeli F-4 Phantom IIs and shot down and most of the people on board killed while trying to re-enter Egyptian airspace after failing to follow instructions issued by the Israeli pilots.[1] Of the 113 people on board, there were 5 survivors, including the co-pilot.[1][2]

Contents

Account

The aircraft was piloted by a mostly French crew (captain and flight engineer; the co-pilot was Libyan) under a contractual arrangement between Air France and Libyan Arab Airlines. After a brief stop at Benghazi in eastern Libya, Flight 114 continued en route to Cairo with 113 people on board.

As the airliner cruised high over northern Egypt, a large sandstorm below forced the crew to rely completely on instrument navigation. A short time later, around 13:44, the pilot began to suspect that he had made a navigational error because of a compass malfunction: he could not find an air traffic beacon, and could not ascertain the plane's current location. He did not report his worries to the Cairo air control tower. Instead, at 13:52 he received permission from Cairo to begin his descent. By now pushed by strong tailwinds, the aircraft had drifted east considerably, and was flying over the Suez canal. Sinai had been occupied by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War.

The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) were on high alert at the time. Israel was in a state of war with Egypt at the time, and thought it suspicious that no Egyptian missiles had been fired at the plane, nor MiGs scrambled to intercept it, despite a similar incident a month earlier, in which an Ethiopian plane had been shot down.

At 13:54, Flight 114 entered airspace over the Sinai desert, cruising at 20,000 feet. Two minutes later, two Israeli Air Force F-4 fighters were scrambled to investigate and intercepted the airliner at 13:59. The Israeli fighter pilots attempted to make visual contact with the passenger airliner's crew, and tried to communicate to them by signaling with their hands, dipping their wings and finally firing warning shots, that they should follow the F-4s back to Rephidim Air Base. The 727 crew's response was interpreted as a denial of that request.[3] The 727 turned back to the west, but the Israeli pilots interpreted this as an attempt to flee.[4]

Aiming at the Boeing's wing tips in order to cripple, but not destroy Flight 114, the F-4s fired short bursts with the cannon. The 20mm shells severely damaged control surfaces, hydraulic systems, and the wing structure itself. Flight 114 was forced to attempt an emergency landing.[3] in an area covered with sand dunes. On landing, there was an explosion near the right main landing gear. Only one of the three engines was running at the time of the crash. When Libyan Arab Airlines Flight 114 came to rest, 108 of the 113 people aboard were dead.[4]

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Aftermath

The copilot, who survived, later said that the flight crew knew the Israeli jets wanted them to land but relations between Israel and Libya then made them decide against following instructions.[1] The Libyan government stated that the attack occurred without warning despite what the copilot said.[1] After government denials, Israel's air force claimed that Flight 114 was a security threat, and that among the possible tasks it could have been undertaking was an aerial spy mission over the Israeli air base at Bir Gifgafa.[3]

The Israeli government also revealed that LN 114 had been shot down with the personal authorization of David Elazar, the Israeli Chief of Staff. Israel's argument was that given the heightened security situation and the erratic behavior of the jet's crew, the actions taken were prudent.[3] The United Nations did not take any action against Israel. The 30 member nations of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) voted to censure Israel for the attack. The United States did not accept the reasoning given by Israel, and condemned the incident.[5]

Israel's Defense Minister Moshe Dayan called it an "error of judgement", and Israel paid compensation to the victims' families.[4]

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c d Aerial intrusions by Civil and Military Aircraft in a Time of Peace Phelps, John Maj. Military Law Review Vol 107 Winter 1985 Page 288
  2. ^ http://www.airsafe.com/events/models/b727.htm List of 727 incidents.
  3. ^ a b c d Aerial intrusions by Civil and Military Aircraft in a Time of Peace Phelps, John Maj. Military Law Review Vol 107 Winter 1985 Page 289
  4. ^ a b c David Gero: Aviation Disasters: The World's Major Civil Airliner Crashes Since 1940 (4th Edition) ISBN 0750931469, p116-117
  5. ^ Aerial intrusions by Civil and Military Aircraft in a Time of Peace Phelps, John Maj. Military Law Review Vol 107 Winter 1985 Page 290

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