Timeline of airliner bombing attacks

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Commercial passenger airliners and cargo aircraft have been the subject of plots or attacks by bombs and fire since the near the start of air travel. Many early bombings were suicides or schemes for insurance money, but in the latter part of the 20th century, assassination and political and religious militant terrorism became the dominant motive for attacking large jets. One list describes 86 cases related to airliner bombings, 53 of them resulting in deaths.[1]

This is a chronological list of airliner bombing attacks. All entries on the list should have their own article. Explosions deemed to have not resulted from a bomb should not be included on this list. Bombings of small light aircraft and air taxis and failed bombing plots may not be notable for inclusion. Commercial airliners contracted to military use may be included on this list, but bombings of military transport aircraft should not.

For airliners brought down by gunfire or missile attacks rather than terrorist bombings or sabotage, see List of airliner shootdown incidents.

List of incidents[edit]

Date Flight or incident Description Casualties
17 November 1912 Bleriot Bleriot-XI-2 Bleriot Bleriot-XI-2 with Giovanni Sabelli and major Vasil Zlatarov on board performing the first military air strike Unknown
10 October 1933 United Airlines Chesterton crash A Boeing 247 was destroyed by a bomb, with nitroglycerin as the probable explosive agent. A Chicago gangland murder was suspected, but the case remains unsolved.[2] It is thought to be the first proven act of air sabotage in commercial aviation. 7
9 September 1949 Canadian Pacific Air Lines In-flight bombing Joseph-Albert Guay packed a bomb made of dynamite in the baggage carried by his wife. The explosion occurred after take off, leading to the death of all 19 passengers and 4 crew on the Douglas DC-3. Guay was tried and sentenced to death by hanging on 12 January 1951. 23
11 April 1955 Kashmir Princess An Air India Lockheed L-749A Constellation carrying delegates to the Bandung Conference was bombed in an unsuccessful attempt to assassinate Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai. 16
1 November 1955 United Airlines Flight 629 Jack Gilbert Graham packed a bomb containing dynamite in a suitcase carried by his mother. The explosion and crash killed all 39 passengers and 5 crew members. 44
16 November 1959 National Airlines Flight 967 A Douglas DC-7B aircraft disappeared from radar over the Gulf of Mexico; 10 bodies and scattered debris were recovered but the main wreckage was never found. There has been speculation that the plane was brought down by a bomb; one theory is that a convicted criminal tricked another man into boarding in his place with luggage containing a bomb, so that his wife could collect on his life insurance. No probable cause for the crash was found. 42
6 January 1960 National Airlines Flight 2511 A Douglas DC-6 flying from New York to Miami exploded and crashed in North Carolina, killing all on board. Passenger Julian Frank, who was under investigation for running a charity fraud and was heavily insured, is suspected of detonating a dynamite bomb. 34
10 May 1961 Air France Flight 406 A Lockheed L-1649 Starliner flying from Chad to France suffered an explosion and loss of tail control systems and crashed in Algeria, killing all on board. The explosion was believed to have been caused by a nitrocellulose-based bomb, possibly targeting officials of the Central African Republic. 78
22 May 1962 Continental Airlines Flight 11 A Boeing 707 exploded in the vicinity of Centerville, Iowa, United States. Investigators determined that one of the passengers, Thomas G. Doty, had brought a bomb on board the aircraft after purchasing a life insurance policy. This was the first in-flight bombing of a jet airliner. 45; one died shortly after rescue
22 November 1966 Aden Airways crash at Wadi Rabtah A DC-3 registered VR-AAN crashed at Wadi Rabtah while en route to Aden, Yemen. Investigations determined that a bomb had been placed to kill Amir Mohammed bin Said, Prime Minister of Wahidi (now part of Yemen), by his son Ali who wanted to succeed him as Amir.[3] 30
12 October 1967 Cyprus Airways Flight 284 A de Havilland Comet owned by British European Airways was flying between Greece and Cyprus when it broke-up and crashed, killing everyone on board. The cause was not determined, but traces of a military plastic explosive were found on a seat cushion. It is believed a bomb was intended to assassinate the Greek general in command of the Cyprus army who was to be aboard, but cancelled shortly before departure. 66
21 February 1970 Swissair Flight 330 A Convair CV-990 departing Zürich suffered an explosion, cabin smoke and loss of electrical power, and crashed, killing all aboard. Investigators determined that a barometric-triggered bomb had detonated in the aft cargo compartment. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command, claimed responsibility, but Reuters later reported that the group denied involvement.[4] On the same day, a bomb exploded aboard a Caravelle after takeoff from Frankfurt; this plane landed safely. 47
21 April 1970 Philippine Airlines Flight 215 A domestic Philippines flight of a Hawker Siddeley 748 broke-up and crashed, killing all on board. Investigators determined that a bomb in the lavatory exploded and separated the tail section from the aircraft. 36
10 October 1971 Aeroflot Flight 773 Shortly after takeoff from Vnukovo, a Tu-104 suffered an explosion that damaged the left side of the fuselage. The aircraft lost control, broke-up and crashed, killing all on board. A bomb had been placed on the floor inside the cabin between the cabin wall and a seat near fuselage frame 45.[5] 25
26 January 1972 JAT Flight 367 A Douglas DC-9 exploded in mid-air and crashed near Srbská Kamenice, Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic), killing all on board except flight attendant Vesna Vulović. Investigations determined that a homemade bomb had been placed in the forward cargo hold by Croatian terrorists. 27
15 June 1972 Cathay Pacific Flight 700Z A Convair 880 flying at 29,000 ft (8,800 m) exploded and broke-up over Pleiku, South Vietnam killing all on board. Investigation revealed that a bomb, hidden in a cosmetics case placed under a seat, brought down the aircraft. A Thai policeman, whose fiancée and daughter were on board, was suspected of placing the bomb. He was convicted, but was acquitted two years later owing to a lack of evidence. 81
24 April 1973 April 1973 Aeroflot hijacking An Aeroflot Tu-104 had departed Leningrad when a hijacking attempt occurred. A flight attendant tried to disarm the hijacker whose bomb detonated, killing both and causing decompression of the cabin. The crew made an emergency landing in Leningrad.[6] 2
18 May 1973 Aeroflot Flight 109 An Aeroflot Tu-104 flying from Irkutsk to Chita was hijacked and demanded to be flown to China. The hijacker's bomb detonated and the airliner crashed near Lake Baikal, killing all on board.[7] 82
8 September 1974 TWA Flight 841 (1974) A Boeing 707 crashed into the Ionian Sea after takeoff from Athens, killing all aboard. Investigators determined that a bomb in the cargo hold caused structural and control system failures, and the plane stalled and crashed.[8] 88
6 October 1976 Cubana de Aviación Flight 455 A Douglas DC-8 suffered two bomb explosions shortly after takeoff from Barbados, causing a fire, de-pressurization, and ultimately the loss of control systems. The airliner crashed, killing all on board. CIA-linked anti-Castro Cuban exiles in Venezuela were convicted.[9] 73
1 January 1976 Middle East Airlines Flight 438 A bomb exploded in the forward cargo bay of a Boeing 720B en route from Beirut, Lebanon to Dubai. The airliner broke-up and crashed, killing all aboard. The bombers were never identified. Lebanon was enduring a civil war at the time. 81
12 December 1981 Aeronica YN-BXW Mexico City Airport bombing An Aeronica Boeing 727 was undergoing pre-departure checks at Mexico City Airport when a bomb exploded in the passenger cabin, tearing a hole in the fuselage. The bomb was timed to detonate in mid-flight, but because of a 50-minute delay it exploded just before 150 passengers were about to board.[10] 3 crew and 1 ground crew injured
11 August 1982 Pan Am Flight 830 A Boeing 747 en route from Tokyo to Honolulu was damaged by a bomb placed under a seat cushion. The damaged airliner was able to land safely in Honolulu. Mohammed Rashed, linked to the 15 May Organization, was convicted of murder in 1988 and later convicted by a 2006 US court. Abu Ibrahim was also indicted. 1 dead, 16 injured
23 September 1983 Gulf Air Flight 771 On approach to Abu Dhabi, a bomb exploded in the baggage compartment of a Boeing 737 which crashed in the desert, killing all on board. Most of the dead were Pakistani nationals. The bomb was apparently planted by the militant Palestinian Abu Nidal organization to convince Saudi Arabia to pay protection money. 112
23 June 1985 Air India Flight 182 and Tokyo airport bombing A Boeing 747 flying from Montreal to London suffered an explosion in the forward cargo hold, causing rapid decompression and the break-up of the aircraft. It was the deadliest aircraft bombing with 329 killed, and the largest mass murder in Canadian history. A second bomb intended for Air India Flight 301 exploded at the Tokyo airport killing two baggage handlers and injuring four others; this was the first plot to target two planes at the same time. Initial suspect Talwinder Singh Parmar confessed that Lakhbir Singh Rode, leader of the Sikh separatist organization International Sikh Youth Federation (ISYF), was the mastermind.[11] 329 and 2
2 April 1986 TWA Flight 840 (1986) A Boeing 727 flying from Rome to Athens suffered an explosion in the passenger compartment. Four passengers (including an infant) were blown out a hole in the fuselage. The airliner was able to make an emergency landing. The "Arab Revolutionary Cells" claimed responsibility in retaliation for "American arrogance" and clashes with Libya. The bomb contained one pound of plastic explosive, probably placed under a seat by a Lebanese woman who worked for the Abu Nidal Organisation. 4 dead, 7 injured
3 May 1986 Air Lanka Flight 512 The Lockheed L-1011 Tristar was on the ground, about to take off, when an explosion ripped the plane in two. The bomb was originally supposed to detonate mid-flight, but a delay in boarding caused the bomb to explode early. 21
25 December 1986 Iraqi Airways Flight 163 A Boeing 737 flying from Baghdad to Jordan was hijacked by four men. Airline personnel tried to intervene but a hand grenade was detonated in the passenger cabin, forcing an emergency descent. A second grenade exploded in the cockpit, and the aircraft crashed and caught fire, killing 63 of 106 people on board. "Islamic Jihad" (a name used for Hezbollah) claimed responsibility, and Iraq accused Iran of being behind the attack. 63
29 November 1987 Korean Air Flight 858 A Boeing 707 flying from Abu Dhabi to Bangkok exploded, killing all on board. The bomb used liquid explosives concealed as liquor bottles and was planted by North Korean agents. One of the agents, Kim Hyon-hui, survived taking a cyanide capsule and later confessed to the bombing. She was sentenced to death but pardoned as it was believed she had been brainwashed. 115
21 December 1988 Pan Am Flight 103 A Boeing 747 flying from Frankfurt to Detroit via London was destroyed by a bomb, killing all on board and 11 people on the ground when large sections of the aircraft crashed onto residential areas of Lockerbie, Scotland. The bomb was made from PETN and RDX high explosives concealed in a radio cassette player. Libyan intelligence officer Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was convicted in connection with the bombing. 270 (including 11 on the ground)
19 September 1989 UTA Flight 772 A McDonnell Douglas DC-10 flying from Chad to France broke-up and crashed in Niger, killing all aboard. A bomb in the forward cargo hold caused the airliner's destruction. The confession of a Congolese opposition figure resulted in charges against six Libyans, including Deputy Head of Libyan Intelligence Abdullah Senussi, brother-in-law of Muammar al-Gaddafi. Libya refused to extradite the accused, but subsequently recognized its responsibility by compensating the families of the victims. The deemed motive of the bomber was revenge against the French for supporting Chad in the Chadian–Libyan conflict. 170
27 November 1989 Avianca Flight 203 A domestic Colombian flight of a Boeing 727 suffered an explosion at 13,000 feet, 5 minutes after takeoff from Bogota. A bomb placed near an empty fuel tank exploded, igniting fuel vapors with a blast that ripped the aircraft apart, killing 107 people aboard and another 3 from falling debris. The bombing was planned by Pablo Escobar to assassinate presidential candidate César Gaviria Trujillo, but Trujillo was not on the flight. 110 (including 3 on the ground)
11 December 1994 Philippine Airlines Flight 434 A Boeing 747 flying from Cebu, Philippines to Tokyo was seriously damaged by a liquid-explosive bomb which killed one passenger. Although vital control systems were damaged, pilots were able to safely land the airliner an hour later. The bomb was assembled and planted for al-Qaeda by Ramzi Yousef, as a test for planned bombings of the Bojinka plot. 1 dead, 10 injured
21–22 January 1995 (planned) Bojinka plot (failed) A failed al-Qaeda plot to destroy several airliners over the Pacific Ocean using liquid explosives. The conspirators were discovered before they could carry out the plot. 0
22 December 2001 2001 failed shoe bomb attempt Al-Qaeda operative Richard Reid was subdued by passengers of American Airlines Flight 63, flying from Paris to Miami, after unsuccessfully attempting to detonate plastic explosives concealed in his shoes. 0
7 May 2002 China Northern Flight 6136 A McDonnell Douglas MD-80 nearing its destination of Dalian, China, reported fire in the cabin and requested an emergency landing before crashing. The investigation determined that passenger Zhang Pilin used gasoline to set fire to the cabin after purchasing several life insurance policies. Zhang and most passengers died from carbon monoxide inhalation; none survived the crash. 112
24 August 2004 Volga-AviaExpress Flight 1353 and Siberia Airlines Flight 1047 Two domestic Russian passenger flights departing Moscow, a Tu-134 and a Tu-154 airliner, crashed within minutes of each other, with no survivors. The Siberia Airlines flight broadcast a hijack warning shortly before disappearing from radar. An investigation found traces of RDX high explosive at both crashes, and determined Chechen suicide bombers to be responsible. Chechen separatist Shamil Salmanovich Basayev claimed responsibility. 44 and 46
9 August 2006 2006 transatlantic aircraft plot A failed al-Qaeda terrorist plot to detonate liquid explosives on airliners travelling from the United Kingdom to the United States and Canada. 0
25 December 2009 Northwest Airlines Flight 253 An Airbus A330 flying from Amsterdam to Detroit was the target of a failed al-Qaeda bombing attempt. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab unsuccessfully attempted to detonate plastic explosives concealed in his underwear. 0
29 October 2010 Cargo planes bomb plot A failed al-Qaeda plastic-explosive bombing attempt on a UPS and a FedEx cargo plane bound to the United States. The bombs, concealed in packages originating in Yemen, were discovered at stop-overs a result of shared intelligence. It is believed the bombs were intended to be detonated over a US city.[12] 0
31 October 2015 Metrojet Flight 9268 An Airbus A321 flying from Egypt to Saint Petersburg broke-up above the Sinai, killing everyone on board, becoming the deadliest air disaster in Russian history. ISIL claimed responsibility. Russian investigators found explosive residue and Egyptian authorities agreed it was a terrorist act.[13] 224
2 February 2016 Daallo Airlines Flight 159 An Airbus A321 suffered an explosion shortly after taking off from Mogadishu, opening a hole in the fuselage through which the burnt body of the suicide bomber fell. The airliner was able to safely conduct an emergency landing. Militant group Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility. 1 (the bomber), 2 injured

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Aerospaceweb.org - Ask Us - Commercial Airline Bombing History". Retrieved 17 December 2014. 
  2. ^ BOEING 247 (cl). Retrieved 17 December 2014. 
  3. ^ "404 Not Found". Retrieved 17 December 2014. 
  4. ^ "The New York Times", 22 February 1970
  5. ^ Accident description for CCCP-42490 at the Aviation Safety Network
  6. ^ "ASN Aircraft accident Tupolev 104B CCCP-42505 Leningrad". Aviation-safety.net. Retrieved 26 May 2017. 
  7. ^ "ASN Aircraft accident Tupolev 104B CCCP-42411 Chita". Aviation-safety.net. Retrieved 26 May 2017. 
  8. ^ ((cite web|url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TWA_Flight_841_(1974)))
  9. ^ "WashingtonPost.com: Recent Crashes Caused by Bombings". Retrieved 17 December 2014. 
  10. ^ Warren Hoges, "Its Border Raided, Nicaragua Trains Civilians" NYT, 4 January 1982, A2
  11. ^ SATP (2001). "International Sikh Youth Federation (ISYF)". South Asia Terrorism Portal. Retrieved 31 May 2009. 
  12. ^ Yemen-based al Qaeda group claims responsibility for parcel bomb plot. In: CNN, 6. November 2010
  13. ^ "U.K.: Bomb may have brought down Russian jet". USA TODAY. Retrieved 5 November 2015. 

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