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Malaysia Airlines Flight 653
Hijacking summary
Date 4 December 1977
Type Hijacking
Site Tanjung Kupang, Johor, Malaysia
Passengers 93
Crew 7
Injuries 0
Fatalities 100 (all)
Aircraft type Boeing 737-2H6
Operator Malaysia Airlines
Tail number 9M-MBD
Flight origin Penang International Airport
Last stopover Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport
Destination Singapore International Airport (Paya Lebar)

Malaysia Airlines Flight 653 (MH653), a Boeing 737-2H6 aircraft registered as 9M-MBD (delivered September 1972 as 9M-AQO), crashed at Tanjung Kupang, Johor, in Malaysia on the evening of 4 December 1977.[1] It was the first and deadliest fatal accident for Malaysia Airlines, with all 93 passengers and 7 crew killed instantly.[2][3] The flight was apparently hijacked as soon as it reached cruise altitude. The circumstances in which the hijacking and subsequent crash occurred remain unsolved.


Flight number

Currently, Malaysia Airlines uses flight 653 as a flight from Penang to Singapore which operates daily, departs 13:15 and arrives at 14:35. The opposite is flight 652 as a flight from Singapore to Penang which operates daily, departs 11:05 and arrives at 12:25.

Sequence of events

Flight MH653 departed Penang's Runway 22 at exactly 1921 hours for Kuala Lumpur's Subang Airport (now known as Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport).[4] Passengers included the Malaysian Agricultural Minister, Dato' Ali Haji Ahmad, Public Works Department Head, Dato' Mahfuz Khalid, and Cuban Ambassador to Japan, Mario Garcia.[1][5] The pilot in command was Captain G.K. Ganjoor.

At approximately 1954 hours, while at an altitude of 4,000 feet over Batu Arang and descending toward Subang's Runway 33, captain G.K. Ganjoor reported an "unidentified hijacker" onboard to Subang Tower. The tower immediately notified the authorities, who made emergency preparations at the airport.

A few minutes later, however, Captain Ganjoor radioed: "We're now proceeding to Singapore...". Flight MH653 never touched down at Singapore.[6]

At 2015 hours, all communication with flight MH653 was lost.

At 2036 hours, the residents of Kampong Ladang, Tanjong Kupang in Johor reported hearing explosions and seeing burning wreckage in a swamp. The wreckage was later identified as Flight MH653. The plane hit the ground at a near-vertical angle at a very high speed. There were no survivors and not one recognizable body was found.

Fatalities by nationality[7]
Nationality Fatalities
 Afghanistan 1
 Australia 3
 Canada 1
 Cuba 2
 West Germany 4
 Greece 1
 India 3
 Indonesia 3
 Japan 1
 Malaysia 73
 Singapore 1
 United Kingdom 5
 United States 1
 Thailand 1
Total 100


The aircraft cockpit voice recorder was recovered and the following was established:

After seizing control, at a point shortly before the crash, the offender locked himself in the cockpit with the two pilots. From the conversation, it appeared that all tension was gone, the hijacker talking amiably to the pilots. Suddenly, two gunshots occurred in rapid succession, followed a short time later by a third and final shot.

At this stage, the aircraft was on autopilot in a stable flight altitude. Noises suggestive of the cockpit door being broken into are heard, along with screaming and cursing. No noises are heard from within the cockpit to indicate any of the three occupants were conscious.

The autopilot disconnected, possibly due to a pitch input by someone entering the cockpit and trying to control the aircraft without knowing how to do it properly. An investigator speculated that someone pulled back on the column, causing a pitch up, done in such a fashion that positive feedback occurred; e.g., reaching over a pilot unsupported and falling back as the plane pitched up; i.e., a pilot-induced oscillation. This rapidly developed into a high amplitude phugoid oscillation, resulting in the near-vertical impact into the swamp.

The hijacker spoke with a Japanese accent. It has been claimed that the Japanese Red Army was responsible for the hijacking.[8 ]

All recovered remains were x-rayed in an attempt to discover evidence of a projectile or weapon. No weapon or bullet was ever found. The remains of the victims were interred in a mass burial.[9]

The memorial site is situated at Jalan Kebun Teh, Johor Bahru, Malaysia.[5] It is known as Tanjung Kupang Memorial.

Notable references

  • A Malay language novel used in secondary schools in Malaysia called Tragedi Empat Disember ("The Tragedy of December 4"), written by Dzul Karnain Ithnin, is a story about a plane crash in Tanjung Kupang, with obvious references to the real disaster.

See also

  • D. B. Cooper, another one of the few cases of unsolved hijacking in the world


  1. ^ a b "A hijacked Malaysian airlines jet with 100 persons aboard exploded and crashed Sunday night". Associated Press. 1977-12-04.  
  2. ^ "Malaysia Airlines flight crashes with 50 on board". Agence France Presse. 1995-09-15.  
  3. ^ "Worst MAS plane crash occurred in 1977". New Straits Times: p. 4. 1995-09-15.  
  4. ^ "328 killed in nine incidents". New Straits Times: p. 4. 1996-09-01.  
  5. ^ a b "Memorial tells a sad tale of neglect". Business Times. 2000-01-15.  
  6. ^ Dennis, William (2000-01-04). "Asian Rebound Boosts Startups, But Safely Remains A Concert [sic]". Aviation Daily.  
  7. ^ "Names list on the Tanjung Kupang Memorial plaque"
  8. ^ Ethiopia mourns crash victims. CNN, 25 November 1996 (see last paragraph).
  9. ^ "Mass burial planned for unidentified victims". New Straits Times. 1995-09-18. p. 7.  



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