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September 7, 1970: A Pan Am 747 Is Blown Up in Cairo After a Hijacking

Following Polite Requests to Passengers, Flight 93 Ends in Flames


pan american ad

"How to Catch a 747," the Pan American ad, appeared in a Beirut newspaper the day a hijacked Pan American 747 was diverted to Beirut for refueling in September 1970, on its way to Cairo, where it was promptly blown up.

  • Sept. 6: Pan American Flight 93, a 747 taking off from Amsterdam and carrying 173 passengers and crew, is ordered to fly to Beirut, even though the international airport there didn't have a runway for 747s. One more PFLP member, an explosives expert, boarded the plane in Beirut. The hijackers then ordered it flown to Cairo, where it lands at 4:23 a.m. and is blown up shortly afterward.

    "The hijackers told us the plane would be blown up, but they said it so politely and with such smiles that we couldn't take this too seriously," Cornelius Van Aalst, the flight's service supervisor, tells reporters in Cairo, after the ordeal. The hijackers were very friendly," according to Van Aalst, showing "exemplary manners" and helping to carry an injured woman in a blanket from the plane.

    Ironically, while the plane was refueling in Beirut, Lebanon's Daily Star, an English daily, carried advertising for Pan Am headlined, "How To Catch a 747." The ad read: "The 747 is the finest specimen in the air," read the ad. "But oddly enough, it's becoming just about the easiest to catch. And you won't have to go sneaking up on it if you're in Europe or on the way to the U.S.A."

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