Libyan Arab Airlines Flight 114
An illustration of the Libyan Airlines' Boeing 727 flying over Sinai accompanied by two Israeli jet fighters.
|Date||21 February 1973|
|Aircraft type||Boeing 727–224|
|Operator||Libyan Arab Airlines|
|Flight origin||Tripoli International Airport|
|Last stopover||Benghazi Airport|
|Destination||Cairo International Airport|
At 10:30 on 21 February 1973, the 727–224 left Tripoli, and became lost because of a combination of bad weather and equipment failure over northern Egypt around 13:44 (1:44 pm local). It entered Israeli-controlled airspace over the Sinai Peninsula, where it was intercepted by two Israeli F-4 Phantom IIs, and was shot down. Of the 113 people on board, there were five survivors, including the co-pilot.
The aircraft was piloted by a French captain and flight engineer and Libyan co-pilot 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 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 suspected 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. Pushed by strong tailwinds, the aircraft had drifted east, and was flying over the Suez canal. Sinai (to the east of the canal) had been occupied by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) were on high alert; 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.
At 13:54, Flight 114 entered airspace over the Sinai desert, cruising at 20,000 feet (6,100 m). Two minutes later, two Israeli Air Force F-4 fighters were scrambled to investigate and they 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 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. The 727 turned back to the west, and the Israeli pilots interpreted this as an attempt to flee.
The Israeli F-4 pilots fired bursts of 20mm rounds with the F-4's cannon. The rounds severely damaged control surfaces, hydraulic systems, and the wing structure itself. Flight 114 crashed while attempting an emergency landing in an area covered with sand dunes. Following an explosion near the right main landing gear during the crash, 108 of the 113 people aboard died.
The co-pilot, who survived, later said that the flight crew knew the Israeli jets wanted them to land but relations between Israel and Libya made them decide against following instructions. In direct contradiction to the co-pilot's own account the Libyan government stated that the attack occurred without warning. 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.
The Israeli government also revealed that LN 114 was shot down with the personal authorization of David Elazar, the Israeli Chief of Staff. Israel's argument was that the heightened security situation and the erratic behavior of the jet's crew made the actions taken prudent. 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. Israel's Defense Minister, Moshe Dayan, called it an "error of judgment", and Israel paid compensation to the victims' families.
- Phelps, John T. (Maj.) (Winter 1985). "Aerial intrusions by Civil and Military Aircraft in a Time of Peace". Military Law Review (Judge Advocate General's School, U.S. Army) 107: 255–303. p. 288
- http://www.airsafe.com/events/models/b727.htm List of 727 incidents.
- Phelps, John T. (Maj.) (Winter 1985). "Aerial intrusions by Civil and Military Aircraft in a Time of Peace". Military Law Review (Judge Advocate General's School, U.S. Army) 107: 255–303. p. 289
- Gero, David. Aviation Disasters: The World's Major Civil Airliner Crashes Since 1940 (4th Edition) ISBN 0-7509-3146-9, pp. 116-117
- Aerial intrusions by Civil and Military Aircraft in a Time of Peace Phelps, John Maj. Military Law Review Vol 107 Winter 1985 Page 290