Singapore Airlines Flight 117

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Singapore Airlines Flight 117
Airbus A310-324, Singapore Airlines AN0118392.jpg
The aircraft involved in the hijacking, photographed in 1999, 8 years after the incident
Date26–27 March 1991
SiteSingapore Changi Airport, Singapore
1°21′33″N 103°59′22″E / 1.35917°N 103.98944°E / 1.35917; 103.98944Coordinates: 1°21′33″N 103°59′22″E / 1.35917°N 103.98944°E / 1.35917; 103.98944
Aircraft typeAirbus A310-324
OperatorSingapore Airlines
Flight originSultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport
DestinationSingapore Changi Airport
Passengers114 (excluding hijackers)
Fatalities4 (hijackers)
Survivors123 (all, excluding hijackers)

Singapore Airlines Flight 117 was a Singapore Airlines flight that was hijacked en route by four Pakistani terrorists on 26 March 1991.

The aircraft landed at Singapore's Changi Airport. The hijackers, who claimed to be members of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), demanded the release of former Prime Minister of Pakistan Benazir Bhutto's husband, Asif Ali Zardari (later elected President of Pakistan), as well as other PPP members from jail.

They also wished to speak with the Pakistani ambassador to Singapore as well as former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto herself. The hijackers also required the plane to be refuelled to fly to Sydney, Australia.[1] The next morning, 27 March, at 02:30, the hijackers pushed two stewards out of the aircraft, after the plane had been moved to the outer tarmac.

As their demands were not being met, the hijackers threatened to begin killing hostages. However before their deadline had expired, Singapore's Special Operations Force (SOF) commandos of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) stormed the plane, killing the hijackers and freeing all hostages unhurt within 30 seconds.[2] This was the first and only hijacking involving a Singapore Airlines aircraft.[3]


Operation Thunderbolt
Date27 March 1991
Changi Airport, Singapore
Result Special Operations Force victory
Singapore Special Operations Force (SOF) pro-Pakistan Peoples Party hijackers
Commanders and leaders
Singapore Unknown Shahid Hussain Soomro
20 SOF commandos 4 hijackers
Casualties and losses
None 4 killed
2 crew wounded (pushed out of the aircraft)

The plane, an Airbus A310 with registration 9V-STP,[3] had taken off from Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport in Subang near Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia at 21:15 SST, with 114 passengers and 11 crew on board.[4]

The plane was hijacked in mid-air and took control of the cockpit while en route to Singapore Changi Airport by four Pakistanis, named Shahid Hussain Soomro, its leader, as well as Fida Mohammad Khan Jadoon, Javaid Akhter Keyani and Mohammad Yousof Mughal, at approximately 21:50.[5] The hijackers were armed with explosives and knives but no firearms.[4]

Originally, the leader of the hijackers told the pilot, Captain Stanley Lim, that they would blow the plane up if it landed in Singapore. He demanded that Lim fly the plane to Sydney. Lim stressed that the plane did not have enough fuel to fly to Sydney, and that it would crash if he did so. The leader then permitted Lim to land the plane in Singapore to refuel before heading to Sydney, and had promised to release the passengers at Changi Airport.

It landed safely at Changi Airport's Runway 1 at 22:24, where a group of officials from the Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts, along with Singapore Airlines representatives and a negotiating team, were waiting.[6]

Storming and rescue[edit]

At 06:45, the hijackers gave a last 5-minute deadline, and issued a threat to kill one passenger every ten minutes if their demands were still not met. With three minutes to go, orders were given to initiate the assault at 06:47 code-named Operation Thunderbolt: the Singapore Armed Forces Commando Formation (SAF CDO FN) of the Special Operations Force (SOF) forced the plane doors open with detonating charges and tossed stun grenades into the plane. After shouting for the passengers to get down and identifying themselves as the rescue team, commandos stormed the plane and shot dead all four hijackers, leaving the hostages unharmed in a 30-second sweep. The hijack leader had been shot five times in the chest, but was still alive. Still determined, he attempted to stand and ignite his explosive. However, a commando reacted quickly and drew his Sig Sauer P226 pistol and shot him dead.[7]

The commandos then instructed the passengers to exit the aircraft through the emergency exit chutes. After confirming that there were no more hijackers, the passengers were transported to the airport terminal in three buses. The plane was completely secured by 06:50. A press conference was subsequently held at 07:50 to announce the success of the rescue operation.[8]

The aircraft[edit]

The hijacked aircraft had been delivered to Singapore Airlines on 22 November 1988. The hijacked plane had continued to remain in daily service with Singapore Airlines after the incident for the next 10 years, until it was transferred to Spanish airline Air Plus Comet on 11 May 2001. The plane was painted all-white and re-registered from 9V-STP to EC-HVB. On 31 May 2003, it was retired from flying and was stored in the Mojave Air and Space Port in the United States. On 25 April 2005, the untitled A310 aircraft which was registered N443RR was broken up and scrapped on site at the same location.[9]

In 2010, the registration of the hijacked A310, 9V-STP, was then re-registered to an Airbus A330-300. In 2016, the aircraft was withdrawn from use and returned to the lessor.[10]


Singapore received international praise for its prompt action in handling the incident.[5] Then Prime Minister of Singapore Goh Chok Tong commended all those involved in handling the ordeal and rescue mission for their swiftness and efficiency. Captain Stanley Lim, the pilot of the flight, and Superintendent Foo Kia Juah, chief police negotiator, were awarded the Public Service Star for their roles. The SAF Commando Formation members were awarded the Medal for Valour, and others in the negotiating team were given the President's Certificates of Commendation.[11]

Singapore Airlines continues to operate flight number 117 between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, now using an Airbus A350-900 (Flight 117 used to operate A330-300 on this route) except on Saturdays and Sundays.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Chan, F., & Choong, W. (2011, March 26). Remembering flight SQ117 nine hours of terror. The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Tan, S. (1991). Hijack! SQ 117: The untold story. Singapore: Heinemann Asia, p. 51 (Call no.: RSING 364.154095957 TAN)
  2. ^ Choi Kee, Choy (4 May 2010). "History snippets: 1981 Onwards (A Maturing SAF): 1991 – SQ 117 Rescue". 6=Singaporean Ministry of Defence (MINDEF). Archived from the original on 5 August 2012. Retrieved 21 June 2011.
  3. ^ a b Hijacking description at the Aviation Safety Network
  4. ^ a b "As a Special Forces soldier, he stormed a hijacked Singapore Airlines plane. Now he's a monk". CNA. Retrieved 15 July 2020.
  5. ^ a b Singh, B. (1991). Skyjacking of SQ 117: Causes, course and consequences. Singapore: Crescent Design Associates, p. 72 (Call no.: RSING 364.154095957 BIL); Tan, S. (1991). Hijack! SQ 117: The untold story. Singapore: Heinemann Asia, p. 87 (Call no.: RSING 364.154095957 TAN)
  6. ^ Tan, S. (1991, March 31). I live to fly another day: Pilot. The Straits Times, p. 18; Chan, F., & Choong, W. (2011, March 26). Remembering flight SQ117 nine hours of terror. The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  7. ^ "SQ117 Hijack". Channel NewsAsia. Archived from the original on 7 March 2016. Retrieved 3 February 2015.
  8. ^ Reporter’s log: Chronology of events. (1991, March 28). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG. 40. Singh, B. (1991). Skyjacking of SQ 117: Causes, course and consequences. Singapore: Crescent Design Associates, pp. 38–40 (Call no.: RSING 364.154095957 BIL)
  9. ^ "Operators of the aircraft: 9V-STP / N443RR / EC-HVB". Airfleets aviation. Archived from the original on 23 March 2012. Retrieved 19 June 2011.
  10. ^ "B-LHD Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330-300". Archived from the original on 28 October 2017. Retrieved 28 October 2017.
  11. ^ "Hijacking of Singapore Airlines flight SQ 117". National Library Board. Retrieved 7 April 2020.
  12. ^ "SQ117 (SIA117) Singapore Airlines Flight Tracking and History". FlightAware. Retrieved 15 July 2020.

External links[edit]