Terrorist thwarterReginald Levy

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Levy wanted to be a pilot, and at 18 joined the Royal Air Force. He flew bombing missions over Germany in World War II, and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. He flew for the Berlin airlift after the war, and as a civilian was an airline pilot, for Sabena, the Belgian airline. On his 50th birthday (May 8, 1972), with his wife on board, he announced to passengers that “we have friends on board.” The “friends” were four Palestinian terrorists from Black September, the group responsible for killing 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics.

He was ordered to land in Tel Aviv, where the group tried to trade the passengers’ lives for 317 Palestinian guerrillas held in Israeli prisons. After talking all night, the hijackers sent Levy into the airport carrying samples of their explosives to show their seriousness. Bad choice: Levy was able to describe the situation so completely, commandos were able to raid the plane and, in just 90 seconds, save all the hostages. The rescue team was led by Ehud Barak, now Israel’s Deputy Prime Minister; his team included Bibi Netanyahu, now Israel’s Prime Minister. At the time, Prime Minister Golda Meir defended the raid, saying “When blackmail like this succeeds, it only leads to more blackmail.” Capt. Levy, who retired from Sabena in 1982 after 30 years, died from a heart attack on August 1 in Dover, England. He was 88.

From This is True for 8 August 2010