February 21st in Aviation History

Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons

Libyan Arab Airlines Flight 114 was a scheduled commercial passenger flight between Tripoli, Libya and Cairo, Egypt with a stopover at Benghazi in Libya. On the 21st of February, 1973, the flight was being carried out a Boeing 727-200 series aircraft. There were 104 passengers and 9 crew on board.

After taking off from the stopover airport of Benghazi, the Boeing 727 partly due to instrument failure and partly due to bad weather, strayed off course. It entered the Sinai Peninsula airspace which was then occupied by Israel. Two Israeli F-4 Phantoms intercepted the Boeing 727 and after a short time the airliner was shot down.

108 of the 113 people on board died as the 727 attempted to crash land in the sand dunes below. Among the 5 survivors was also the co-pilot of the aircraft.

The Libyan Government said that the aircraft had been shot down without any warnings but the co-pilot had another story to tell. The co-pilot said that they had indeed been given instructions by the Israeli F4 Phantoms to land immediately but they did not comply. Relations between Libya and Israel were not ideal at that time and that caused the crew not to take orders from Israeli fighter jets, a move that would cost 108 lives.

The Israeli government also revealed that the 727 was shot down with the personal authorization of the Israeli Chief of Staff. Israel’s argument was that the heightened security situation and the erratic behavior of the airplane caused them to take extreme measures. The United Nations did not take any action against Israel. Israel’s Defense Minister, Moshe Dayan, called it an “error of judgment”, and Israel paid compensation to the victims’ families.


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