Pilot to Tower: ‘He’s Going to Kill Passengers!’

Associated Press

The following is a partial transcript of a conversation Friday in English between the pilot of a hijacked Athens-to-Rome TWA flight and the Beirut airport control tower before the first landing there:

Plane: Beirut control, TWA 847, request landing instructions.

Tower: I am unable to give you landing instructions due to the closure of the airport, sir. Advise the hijackers that. I think they understand English.

Plane: Well, yeah, they do. But they’re insistent upon landing in Beirut.


Tower: You have not permission to land Beirut airport. It’s up to you and to the hijackers to go on.

Plane: Beirut, the hijacker has pulled the pin on his hand grenade. He will land at Beirut. He is desperate.

Tower: My word is to the hijacker. (continues in Arabic)

Plane: (interrupting) He has pulled a hand grenade pin and is ready to blow up the aircraft if he has to. We must, I repeat, we must land at Beirut. We must land at Beirut. No alternative.


Tower: OK. It’s up to you to go on. It’s up to you to go on. I can’t give you permission because my responsibility doesn’t give me permission for you to land. The airport is closed. (garbled) would you advise the hijacker to hold for 10 minutes? Can you hold for 10 minutes to find a solution for your problem?

Plane: TWA 847, that is a negative. We understand, we understand, but we must land at Beirut. The hijacker is insistent. Thank you.

Tower: Understand that you are landing without permission. Thank you.

Plane: Be advised we have no choice. We must land.


Tower: OK, sir. Land, land quietly. Land quietly. It’s up to you sir. As you know, the airport is not in my hands.

Plane: I understand, can you get the wind at Beirut? TWA 847.

Following is a partial transcript of the conversation between the pilot and the tower after the hijacked plane landed at the airport:

Pilot: Ground, TWA 847, they are threatening to kill the passengers, they are threatening to kill the passengers. We must need fuel, we must get fuel.


Tower: I am trying, I am trying to arr-- to to to have fuel for you. Trying to arrange fuel for. . . .

Pilot: They are beating the passengers, they are beating the passengers. They are threatening to kill them now, they are threatening to kill them now. We want the fuel now. Immediately!

Tower: I am doing my best.

Pilot: Five minutes, five minutes at the most. With fuel. Now. Five minutes or he’s going to kill passengers!


Hijacker: (Shouts in Arabic.)

Pilot: “He says if he doesn’t get fuel in three minutes he’s going to kill an American that he has tied up in the cockpit.

Tower: I am doing my utmost, I am doing my best to (garbled), to have the fuel for you. I am doing my utmost, sir. I am helping, but what can I do, sir? Would you please advise the hijackers to take it easy. I am planning, I am doing my best (garbled) to be ready for you.