47 Years ago today: On 21 February 1973 a Libyan Arab Boeing 727 was shot down by Israeli fighters near Isma’iliya, Egypt; killing 106 out of 113 occupants.
|Date:||Wednesday 21 February 1973|
|Operator:||Libyan Arab Airlines|
|C/n / msn:||20244/650|
|First flight:||1968-10-16 (4 years 4 months)|
|Total airframe hrs:||4526|
|Engines:||3 Pratt & Whitney JT8D-9|
|Crew:||Fatalities: 8 / Occupants: 9|
|Passengers:||Fatalities: 100 / Occupants: 104|
|Total:||Fatalities: 108 / Occupants: 113|
|Aircraft fate:||Written off (damaged beyond repair)|
|Location:||35 km (21.9 mls) SE of Isma’iliya ( Egypt)|
|Phase:||En route (ENR)|
|Nature:||International Scheduled Passenger|
|Departure airport:||Benghazi-Benina International Airport (BEN/HLLB), Libya|
|Destination airport:||Cairo International Airport (CAI/HECA), Egypt|
Libyan Arab Airlines Flight 114, a Boeing 727-200, was destroyed when it crashed after having been shot by Israeli fighter aircraft. Five of the 113 occupants survived the crash.
Flight LN114 was a scheduled service from Tripoli, Libya to Benghazi, Libya and Cairo, Egypt. The aircraft departed Benghazi at 10:40 hours UTC. Weather conditions on the route to Cairo included a low stratocumulus and 6/8 to 8/8 altocumulus up to about FL180.
The flight reported to Benghazi Approach over Labraq NDB at 10:54 hours at FL200. From there the aircraft began to drift north of the required track as it climbed to the cruising altitude of FL290. After passing the Sidi Barrani NDB it drifted to the east (left) of
the required track the angle of divergence being some 9°.
At 11:44 the copilot radioed Cairo ACC and reported a planned passage of the Qarun VOR at 11:52 hours. At 11:46 hours the pilot-in-commend observed that the Qarun VOR was behind the aircraft and that he had a bearing from Cairo different to that anticipated. While the copilot was flying the aircraft, the captain and flight engineer began discussing the navigational problems in French, a language the copilot barely understood.
The co-pilot reported as being over Qarun VOR at 11:52 hours and requested a clearance to descend. The aircraft’s actual position was some 94 miles east-south-east of Qarun approaching the Gulf of Suez. The flight was cleared to descend to FL140.
At about 11:57 hours the aircraft crossed the northern coast of the Gulf of Suez and entered the Sinai, maintaining FL140.
Since the flight was off course, the flight crew failed to capture the necessary navigational beacons for the approach to Cairo.
Meanwhile, at 11:54 hours the Israeli Defense Forces became apprehensive when they detected an unidentified aircraft (5A-DAH) approaching the Gulf of Suez on a track leading towards the Bir Gafgafa Air Base, which was operated by Israel at the time. Ground and air defense forces were alerted and two McDonnell F-4E Phantom II fighters commenced an interception in order to identify the aircraft.
The co-pilot of reported to Cairo Approach that the aircraft was 10 miles from Cairo while the actual position of 5A-DAH was approximately 15 miles southwest of Bir Gafgafa with 5A-DAH tracking in a northeasterly direction. The Boeing 727 was cleared down to 4000 feet and cleared to the LU locator which the pilot had reported approaching. Cairo was in fact some 105 miles distant and the LU locator was designed for an effective range of 20 miles.
At 12:01 hours the aircraft commenced descent at 3000 fpm and the heading which had wandered over the past 3 minutes to 010 was returned to 050 which placed the aircraft direct on track for Bir Gafgafa. At this time the two Phantom aircraft were less than 2 miles behind 5A-DAH.
Then the captain commented to the co-pilot that they were “far away” and again talked to the flight engineer to tune the radio navigation equipment. While descending through 6000 feet the copilot noticed the fighter aircraft. The aircraft was then turned from a heading of 050° to approximately 260°, the general direction of Cairo, and levelled off at about 6000 feet.
At 12:04 the Section Leader of the Phantom aircraft placed his aircraft on the starboard side of 5A-DAH so that he personally was about 12 metres from the co-pilot and by hand-signals pointed down towards Bir Gafgafa a number of times.
The co-pilot advised the captain that the Phantom pilot was trying to indicate something. The Phantom pilot then rocked his wings, indicating to follow him. The copilot commented to the captain that he did not understand this. When the Section Leader again signaled by hand to fly down to Bir Gafgafa, the copilot either waved or indicated straight-ahead; the captain and flight engineer continued operating the radio navigation equipment.
Cairo Approach Control then cleared to flight to climb to FL100. As the aircraft began to increase the rate of climb, the Phantom Section Leader fired a burst of gun-fire with tracers in front of 5A-DAH and across the flight path.
Engine power was reduced and the aircraft descended at 1000 ft/min whilst all three crew members attempted to tune in the Cairo ILS.
At about 12:08 hours the captain observed one of the Phantom aircraft returning and three short bursts of gunfire (20 mm) were directed towards the starboard wing root area. 5A-DAH was at 5000 feet at the time. The captain immediately advised Cairo Approach Control that he had “serious troubles” and that 5A-DAH had been “shot by a fighter”. A few seconds later the co-pilot identified to the captain that it was an Israeli fighter.
Over the next minute the aircraft descended at 1500-2000 feet per minute while maintaining heading. At 12:09 two engines failed or were shut down at about 3000 ft altitude.
The aircraft continued its descent apparently under control with a fire burning in the starboard wing root area and which entered the passenger cabin.
The starboard wing struck the lip of a sand ridge very heavily followed by heavy impact on the rear underside of the fuselage. The aircraft rolled inverted and skidded to a halt at 12:11 UTC (14:11 local time).