Singapore Airlines Flight 117

Coordinates: 1°21′33″N 103°59′22″E / 1.35917°N 103.98944°E / 1.35917; 103.98944
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Singapore Airlines Flight 117
The aircraft involved in the hijacking, photographed in 1999, 8 years after the incident
Date26 to 27 March 1991
SummaryAircraft hijacking
SiteChangi Airport, Singapore
1°21′33″N 103°59′22″E / 1.35917°N 103.98944°E / 1.35917; 103.98944
Aircraft typeAirbus A310-324
OperatorSingapore Airlines
IATA flight No.SQ117
ICAO flight No.SIA117
Call signSingapore 117
Flight originSultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport
DestinationChangi Airport, Singapore
Passengers114 (excluding hijackers)
Fatalities4 hijackers
Survivors125 (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 in Singapore. 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, who later became President of Pakistan, as well as other PPP members from jail.

As their demands were not being met, the hijackers threatened to begin killing the hostages; before their deadline expired, commandos from the Special Operations Force (SOF) stormed the plane, killing the hijackers and freeing all hostages unhurt.[1] This was the first and only hijacking involving a Singapore Airlines aircraft.[2]


Operation Thunderbolt
Date27 March 1991
Changi Airport, Singapore
Result Decisive Special Operations Force victory
Singapore Special Operations Force 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

The plane, an Airbus A310 with registration 9V-STP,[2] 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.[3] The plane was hijacked in mid-air while en route to Singapore Changi Airport by four Pakistanis. The hijackers were armed with explosives and knives but no firearms.[3] It landed safely at Changi Airport at 22:15, 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.

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. The hijackers also required the plane to be refuelled to fly to Australia.[citation needed] The next morning, 27 March, at 02:30, the hijackers pushed two (male) flight attendants, flight steward Bernard Tan and chief steward Philip Cheong, out of the aircraft, after the plane had been moved to the outer tarmac.[citation needed]

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: the Singapore Armed Forces Commando Formation (SAF CDO FN) stormed the plane in a 30-second sweep, killing all four hijackers with no injuries to hostages. The hijack leader had been shot five times in the chest, but was still alive. He then attempted to stand and ignite his explosive but a commando shot him dead before he did so.[4] The plane was completely secured by 06:50.[5]


Singapore received international praise for its prompt action in handling the incident.[6] 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.[7]

Singapore Airlines as of 15 July 2020 continues to operate the flight number 117 between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, using an Airbus A350-900 (Flight 117 used to operate A330-300 on this route) except on Saturdays and Sundays.[8]

The aircraft[edit]

The hijacked aircraft had been delivered to Singapore Airlines on 22 November 1988. The hijacked plane 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.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 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.
  2. ^ a b Hijacking description at the Aviation Safety Network
  3. ^ a b "As a Special Forces soldier, he stormed a hijacked Singapore Airlines plane. Now he's a monk". CNA. Retrieved 15 July 2020.
  4. ^ "SQ117 Hijack". Channel NewsAsia. Archived from the original on 7 March 2016. Retrieved 3 February 2015.
  5. ^ "'SQ117 owes me a glass of fresh milk': The Singapore Airlines hijacking, 30 years on". CNA. 26 March 2021.
  6. ^ 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)
  7. ^ "Hijacking of Singapore Airlines flight SQ 117". National Library Board. Retrieved 7 April 2020.
  8. ^ "SQ117 (SIA117) Singapore Airlines Flight Tracking and History". FlightAware. Retrieved 15 July 2020.
  9. ^ "Operators of the aircraft: 9V-STP / N443RR / EC-HVB". Airfleets aviation. Archived from the original on 23 March 2012. Retrieved 19 June 2011.

External links[edit]