Timeline of airliner bombing attacks

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Commercial airliners as well as cargo aircraft have been the subject of plots or attacked 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, 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]

List of incidents[edit]

  • United Airlines Chesterton Crash 1933 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 the history of commercial aviation.
  • Canadian Pacific Air Lines In-flight bombing In 1949, 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. Guay was later put on trial and sentenced to death by hanging on 12 January 1951.
  • Kashmir Princess - In April 1955, an Air India plane carrying delegates to the Bandung Conference was bombed in an unsuccessful attempt to assassinate Zhou Enlai.
  • United Airlines Flight 629 In 1955, Jack Gilbert Graham packed a bomb containing dynamite in a suitcase carried by his mother. The explosion killed all 39 passengers and all 5 crew members. Graham was executed in 1957 for the pre-meditated murder of his mother, as there was no federal statute for the carrying out of an airplane bombing.
  • 1956 Greek Cypriot EOKA bombing campaign against British rule in Cyprus leads to destruction of aircraft. Violence continues until Cyprus is granted independence in 1960.
  • National Airlines Flight 967 In 1959 a bomb destroyed a Douglas DC-7B aircraft over the Gulf of Mexico. One theory is that a convicted criminal befriended and tricked another man into boarding with luggage containing a bomb so that his wife would be able to collect on his life insurance. Due to lack of evidence, the suspect was never charged in the alleged bombing, and no probable cause for the crash was found.
  • Continental Airlines Flight 11, registration N70775, was a Boeing 707 aircraft which exploded on May 22, 1962 in the vicinity of Centerville, Iowa, while en route from O'Hare Airport, Chicago, Illinois, to Kansas City, Missouri. It was later discovered by investigators that one of the passengers, Thomas G. Doty, had brought a bomb on board the aircraft. This was the first in-flight bombing of a jet airliner.
  • The Aden Airways DC3 registered VR-AAN was destroyed on 22 November 1966 at 1220 HRS. Investigations revealed a bomb had been placed by 'Ali, the son of Amir Mohammed bin Said, Prime Minister of Wahidi (now in modern Yeman) who wanted to prematurely succeed him as Amir.[3]
  • Cyprus Airways Flight 284 in 1967 a de Havilland Comet owned by British European Airways was flying between Athens, Greece and Nicosia, Cyprus when it suffered an explosion in the cabin, killing all 66 on board. Cause is unsolved, but a recovered seat cushion showed traces of a military plastic explosive. Armed fighting between Greek and the minority Muslim Turkish communities had prompted the United Nations to send peacekeeping forces since 1964. It is believed the bomb was placed by terrorists hoping to kill the Greek general in command of the Cyprus army who was to be aboard but cancelled shortly before departure.
  • Swissair Flight 330 On February 21, 1970, HB-ICD[4] a Convair CV-990 Coronado jet named “Baselland” was flying on the route with 38 passengers and nine crew members. A bomb detonated in the aft cargo compartment of the aircraft All aboard the aircraft were killed. Sabotage was suspected because of sentencing of three Palestinians by a Swiss court. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command, said in Beirut, Lebanon, that it had been responsible for the explosion. Reuters reported later, however, from Amman, Jordan, that a spokesman for the guerrilla group had denied that it was involved.[5] A barometric triggered IED had been used. On the same day, a bomb exploded aboard a Vienna-bound Caravelle after takeoff from Frankfurt. The Caravelle landed safely.
  • Oct. 6, 1976 Cubana de Aviación Flight 455 exploded after takeoff from Barbados. 73 killed. US-allied Cuban exiles in Venezuela were convicted.[6]
  • Middle East Airlines Flight 438 In 1976, a bomb exploded a cargo bay of a Boeing 720B en route from Beirut, Lebanon to Dubai. The bombers were never identified. Lebanon was enduring a civil war at the time.
  • On December 12, 1981, an Aeronica Boeing 727 exploded while waiting at the Mexico City Airport. The bomb was timed to go off mid-air, but because of a 50-minute flight delay, it went off early, just before 150 passengers were about to board.[7]
  • Pan Am Flight 830 On August 11, 1982 Boeing 747 bomb placed under seat kills one 16-year-old Japanese boy, injuring 15. The bomb was allegedly placed by Mohammed Rashed, linked to a Palestinian terrorist organization. He was arrested in Greece, later convicted of murder and released in 1996, also convicted in 2006 by a United States court. Abu Ibrahim was also indicted but cannot be found.
  • Gulf Air Flight 771 On 23 September 1983, on approach to Abu Dhabi International Airport, a bomb exploded in the baggage compartment. Most of the dead were Pakistani nationals. The bomb was apparently planted by the militant Palestinian Abu Nidal organization for protection money payments.
  • Air India Flight 182 1985 transatlantic flight of first 747 destroyed by sabotage. Aircraft exploded in-flight by dynamite placed in a stereo tuner with timers purchased by Sikh separatists. A similar second bomb intended for Air India Flight 301 exploded at the Tokyo airport killing two baggage handlers and injuring four others. This is the first plot to target two planes at the same time. The initial suspect Talwinder Singh Parmar confessed that Lakhbir Singh Rode, leader of the Sikh separatist organization International Sikh Youth Federation (ISYF) was the mastermind. There are allegations that the ISYF has been supported by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence organization which has been linked to Islamic terrorism organizations.[8] Later Lockerbie attack would also involve suitcases with explosives placed in electronic music components on a 747. Khalistan activists believe it was a false flag attack by Indian government to discredit their movement.
  • TWA Flight 840 (1986) April 2, 1986 on a Boeing 727-231 flying from Rome's Fiumicino Airport to Athens. A bomb detonated ejecting four American passengers (including a nine-month-old infant) to their deaths below, injuring five others. The "Arab Revolutionary Cells" claimed it was responding to "American arrogance" and clashes with Libya. The bomb contained one pound of plastic explosive, probably placed under the seat by a Lebanese woman (arrested, not convicted) who worked for the militant Palestinian Abu Nidal Organisation.
  • Iraqi Airways Flight 163 December 25, 1986, two bombs detonated on a Boeing 737, killing 60 of 106 people on board.
  • Korean Air Flight 858, a flight brought down in November 1987 by liquid explosives concealed as liquor bottles by North Koreans who boarded the plane in Iraq. A similar pattern would be used by Ramzi Yousef in the Philippines in 1994.
  • Pan Am Flight 103/Lockerbie Boeing 747 killing 270 people on December 21, 1988, a transatlantic flight destroyed in-flight by PETN explosives. Parts of suitcase containing the bomb were recovered with pieces of circuit board of a radio cassette player similar to one concealing a Semtex bomb seized by West German police from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Motive attributed to a number of Middle Eastern terrorist groups. Two Libyan intelligence operatives were committed in connection with the attack.
  • On 19 September 1989, UTA Flight 772 was downed over Niger by a bomb, killing all 156 passengers and 15 crew members. After investigators obtained a confession from one of those who had loaded the bomb in Brazzaville, France indicted six Libyans, including Abdullah Senussi, brother-in-law of Muammar al-Gaddafi, and deputy head of Libyan intelligence. Libya refused to extradite the six, who were condemned in absentia, 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 against the expansionist projects of Libya toward Chad.
  • Avianca Flight 203, a Boeing 727 flying from Bogota to Cali was bombed in on 27 November 1989 killing 107 people plus a possible three on the ground. The bombing was planned by Pablo Escobar of the Medellin drug cartel. The motive was an assassination attempt on presidential candidate César Gaviria Trujillo, but the target was not on the flight.
  • Philippine Airlines Flight 434 1994 al-Queda test run for Operation Bojinka, in which a passenger was killed and 747 controls seriously damaged by a liquid explosive packed into contact lens solution bottles containing nitroglycerin. Bomb was assembled from parts in hand luggage by Ramzi Yousef, who also built and detonated the WTC 1993 bomb.
  • Bojinka plot al-Queda plot to destroy several airliners over the Pacific Ocean in 1995 using liquid explosives. Elements of Oplan Bojinka inspired both the September 11 attack and the August 2006 plot to bomb transatlantic flights.
  • American Airlines Flight 63 The "shoe bomb", a failed al-Qaeda PETN bombing attempt in December 2001.
  • China Northern Flight 6136, a 2002 flight brought down by a passenger who had purchased life insurance, who set a fire in flight with gasoline.
  • 2004 Russian aircraft bombings, Islamist terrorist attacks on two domestic Russian passenger aircraft flying from Moscow. The bombs were triggered by two female Chechen suicide bombers. Shamil Salmanovich Basayev militant leader of the Chechen terrorist movement claimed credit.
  • 2006 transatlantic aircraft plot, al-Queda terrorist plot to detonate liquid explosives carried on board at least 10 airliners travelling from the United Kingdom to the United States and Canada. It followed the same general plan as the Bojinka plot.
  • Northwest Airlines Flight 253, the target of a failed al-Qaeda PETN bombing attempt in December 2009.
  • 2010 cargo plane bomb plot, failed al-Qaeda PETN bombing attempt on two planes in October 2010.
  • Metrojet Flight 9268, a Russian charter flight from Egypt carrying 224 people was bombed by ISIL over the Sinai Peninsula on 31 October 2015, killing all on board.[9]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ "Aerospaceweb.org - Ask Us - Commercial Airline Bombing History". Retrieved 17 December 2014.  line feed character in |title= at position 29 (help)
  2. ^ "BOEING 247 (cl)". Retrieved 17 December 2014. 
  3. ^ "404 Not Found". Retrieved 17 December 2014. 
  4. ^ Photos: Convair 990-30A-6 Coronado Aircraft Pictures | Airliners.net
  5. ^ "The New York Times," Feb. 22, 1970
  6. ^ "WashingtonPost.com: Recent Crashes Caused by Bombings". Retrieved 17 December 2014. 
  7. ^ Warren Hoges, "Its Border Raided, Nicaragua Trains Civilians" NYT, Jan 4, 1982, A2
  8. ^ "International Sikh Youth Federation (ISYF) South Asian Terrorism Portal article". The Institute for Conflict Management. n.d. Retrieved 2009-05-31.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  9. ^ "U.K.: Bomb may have brought down Russian jet". USA TODAY. Retrieved 2015-11-05.