On September 8, 1974, a Boeing 707-331B (tail number N8734) operating as TWA Flight 841 took off from Ben Gurion International Airport, Tel Aviv en route to JFK International Airport, New York City. It was scheduled to land in Athens, followed by Rome, and then proceed to New York. After stopping for 68 minutes in Athens, it departed for Rome. About 30 minutes after takeoff, the plane crashed into the Ionian Sea. The out of control aircraft was observed by crew on the flight deck of Pan Am 110. They watched the aircraft execute a steep climb, the separation of an engine from the wing, and the death spiral. All 79 passengers and nine crew members were killed. The National Transportation Safety Board determined that the plane was destroyed by a bomb hidden in the cargo hold, which caused structural failure resulting in uncontrollable flight. This was the first known instance of a young Arab boarding an American plane in a suicide mission.
Since the ousting of the PLO from Jordan, following the Jordanian-Palestinian civil war, the Palestinian military organizations made South Lebanon into headquarters, enlisting militants from Palestinian refugee camps. South Lebanon was also referred to as Fatahland, due to the almost complete control of Fatah and other military Palestinian organizations over this officially Lebanese area, which they used to stage attacks against Israel, mainly targeting civilians, and to engage in international airflight terror campaign.
The airline's Tel Aviv office said 49 passengers boarded the plane there for Rome and the United States. They included 17 Americans (plus a baby), 13 Japanese, four Italians, four French, three Indians, two Iranians, two Israelis, two Sri Lankans, an Australian and a Canadian. The nationalities of 30 other passengers and the nine crew members were not immediately known at the time. Reuters reported a total of 37 Americans aboard.
In Beirut, it was reported that a Palestinian youth organization claimed it had put a guerrilla on the plane with a bomb. However, a spokesman for TWA said sabotage was "highly unlikely." Later, the National Transportation Safety Board determined that the plane was indeed destroyed by a bomb hidden in the cargo hold, which caused structural failure resulting in uncontrollable flight.
Suspicion has fallen on Abu Nidal and his terror organization. This was the first known instance of a young Arab boarding an American plane in a suicide mission, predating the September 11 attacks by nearly three decades.