BA100: 45. Dawson’s Field Hijacking

100 Years Of British Airways: The hijacking of a BOAC Super VC-10 aircraft at Dawsons Field in September 1970.

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An inevitable consequence of operating a global airline is that it will be caught up in major geopolitical events.

On 6 September 1970 members of Popular Front For The Liberation Of Palestine made an unsuccessful attempt to hijack an El Al Boeing 707 flying from Amsterdam.

The hijackers were overpowered and the aircraft landed at Heathrow. One of the two hijackers was shot. Another hijacker, Leila Khaled, was held in custody in the UK. Members of the Popular Front For The Liberation Of Palestine sought to negotiate her release.

On 9 September 1970, a BOAC Super VC-10 aircraft operating as flight BA775 and piloted by Captain Cyril Goulborn, having started its journey in Mumbai, departed Bahrain for Beirut.

The aircraft was hijacked by members of the Popular Front For The Liberation Of Palestine. The aircraft landed in Beirut before being made to fly to Zerqa (also known as Dawsons Field) which was a military airfield 20 miles north of Amman.

Also at the airfield was a hijacked TWA Boeing 707 and a Swissair DC-8 aircraft.

The 105 passengers and 10 crew on board the aircraft were held hostage for several days until British, German, Swiss, and Israeli authorities agreed to release Leila Khaled.

All passengers and crew were released from the aircraft before all three aircraft were blown up on 12 September 1970. All passengers and crew from the BOAC flight subsequently returned to the UK.

The incidents did prompt a radical review of security measures for international flights and the implementation of greater screening of baggage, reviews of passenger lists and metal detectors at airports, which of course we are now all accustomed to.

You can continue reading our 100 part series on the history of British Airways and its predecessor airlines Imperial Airways, BOAC and BEA in numerical order, by theme or by decade.

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