Dubai's Hijack History

Dubai experienced a number of aircraft hijackings in 1970s and 80s. Airport and Airline security was not as "tight" as it is today plus Dubai was close to many areas of conflict back then. Most of these Aircraft Hijackings started at other airports then either transited Dubai Airport or came to an end in Dubai.

Five Aircraft Hijacked in One Day

Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine hijacked five aircraft flying from Europe to USA. Four aircraft were diverted to an ex UK RAF Airstrip in Jordan known as Dawson's Field. Hijacking of the fifth aircraft was foiled. One of the Hijackers, Leila Khaled,was captured and handed over to the British Government.

VC10 at Dawson's Field

On 9th September at Dubai Airport, a PFLP Sympathiser boarded a BOAC VC10 bound for London via Bahrain and Beirut. He hijacked the VC10 over Lebanon and diverted the aircraft to Dawson's Field. Demands were then made for the British Government to release Leila Khaled. Leila Khaled and all the Passengers were eventually released without any deaths or injuries. Many of the BOAC VC10's Passengers were expatriate children returning to UK Boarding Schools after the summer holidays. There a lot of worried parents particularly in Bahrain. But the children regarded the hijack as an adventure. Dawson's Field took on a "party" atmosphere as Passengers were released as this historic video shows......


KLM Flight 861 was a scheduled flight from Amsterdam to Tokyo-Haneda via Athens, Beirut and Delhi. Over Iraq the aircraft was hijacked by three members of the Arab Youth Organization for the Liberation of Palestine. They forced a landing at Damascus Airport then demanded to be flown to Nicosia, Cyprus where they demanded the release of seven Palestinian Prisoners. Their demands were not met so the Hijackers forced the Crew to fly to Tripoli, Libya. There they wanted to surrender provided they were free to leave the country. Libyan Authorities refused and blocked Tripoli's the main runway. KLM Crew managed to takeoff from the shorter runway and headed for Malta where, after failed negotiations, the Hijackers demanded to be flown to Baghdad.

Iraq refused to accept the aircraft as did Kuwait and Qatar. With the aircraft running out of fuel Dubai allowed the aircraft to land and refuel. KLM Flight 861 then flew to Aden, Yemen but they were refused permission to land so the aircraft returned to Dubai where Sheikh Mohammed began negotiations from Dubai Airport's Control Tower. He offered the Hijackers safe passage provided they did not harm the Passengers or the aircraft. Eventually the Hijackers agreed to Sheikh Mohammed's terms and surrendered.


Hijackers were taken from Dubai Airport in a Dubai Defence Force Airwing Helicopter. It is not known where the Hijackers were taken or what happened to them.

Dubai Hijack

Photo Jeff Smith- Japan Airlines 747 Dubai Airport 1973

Japan Air Lines Flight 404, enroute to Tokyo International Airport, was hijacked shortly after take off from Schiphol Airport by Palestinian and Japanese terrorists. The aircraft was a Boeing 747-246B, with 123 Passengers and 22 Crew members on board. A grenade carried by one of the skyjackers detonated, killing her and injuring the flight's Chief Purser. The lead Hijacker announced himself to air traffic control as El Kassar who had hijacked the aircraft in the name of the Palestinian Liberation movement. Several Middle Eastern Governments refused landing permission for Flight 404, eventually landing in Dubai. After several days on the ground, the Hijackers demanded the release of Kozo Okamoto, survivor of the JRA's attack on Tel Aviv's Lod Airport. Israeli Government refused to release Okamoto so the Hijackers flew the aircraft first to Damascus, Syria and finally Benghazi, Libya. Eighty-nine hours after the hijacking began, Passengers and Crew were released. Hijackers then blew up the aircraft. Maruoka escaped and remained a fugitive until 1987 when he was arrested in Tokyo after entering Japan on a forged passport. Given a life sentence, he died in prison on 29 May 2011.

G-ASGR Dubai 21 November 1974

On the evening of 21 November 1974 Captain Jim Futcher and his Crew were at Dubai Airport awaiting inbound BA870 to continue its flight to the Far East. During this refueling stop, four men disguised as Airport Workers left the Passenger Lounge and ran towards the aircraft firing guns as they went. A Stewardess standing near the rear steps was hit but fortunately survived. On board the Hijackers realised the Captain was not on board and demanded he get to the airplane or they would start shooting Passengers . Captain Futcher did not hesitate and made his way to the aircraft despite the airport's Security Officer urging him to stay out of sight. As he entered the aircraft he was met by a terrorist holding a gun to the head of a young New Zealander who greeted him with "Thanks for coming aboard Skipper". The aircraft took off with 27 Passengers, 8 Airport Workers who had been cleaning the interior and 10 Crew members.


Hijackers wanted to go to Beirut but the airport had been closed. The VC10 refueled at Tripoli before landing at Tunis where it was surrounded by troops. The Hijackers decided to stick to their demand for the release of 7 Palestinians held in Cairo and Holland. They set a deadline 24 hours away and promised to execute a Passenger every two hours past that time. When no progress was visible after 24 hours they murdered a German Banker and dropped his body to the ground from the aft Passenger door. Negotiations resulted in the Cairo-held Hostages being brought to the plane in exchange for 7 Hostages. When the other two prisoners from Holland arrived the remaining Hostages were also released, leaving Captain Futcher, his Co-Pilot and Flight Engineer on board. Meanwhile the Hijackers had been informed their actions had been condemned from all sides and their request for asylum in Tunis denied. Captain Futcher did his best to reason with the Hijackers amidst their statements they were willing to die for their cause. Time passed and deadlines went but the Crew was still held inside with various explosives set around the cockpit. After an ordeal totaling 84 hours a Hijacker came to the cockpit but instead of the message the Crew was dreading, he informed them that they had decided to surrender.


Captain Futcher was extensively recognised for his heroism in this case and awarded the Queen's Gallantry Medal. He passed away in 2008 aged 86.

Source: Telegraph Obituary for Jim Futcher

Lufthansa flight LH181 "Landshut"

On October 13, 1977, Lufthansa flight LH181 "Landshut", was hijacked by four PFLP Members belonging to "Commando Martyr Halime led by Zohair Youssif Akache, alias Captain Martyr Mahmud. LH181 was flying from Palma de Mallorca to Frankfurt with 91 Passengers and Crew. The aircraft changed course and landed in Rome for refueling. Mahmud demanded the release of eleven Red Army Fraction (a West-German terror group) terrorists detained in JVA Stuttgart-Stammheim Prison and 15 million US Dollars. LH181 continued its journey, landing in Larnaca, Bahrain and Dubai after being denied landing in other airports across the Arabian Peninsula.

On the Ground In Dubai

Approaching Dubai, they were refused landing permission. Overflying the airport in the early light of dawn the Hijackers could see the runway was blocked with trucks and fire engines. Running short of fuel Captain Schumann told Dubai Control Tower they would have to land anyway and, as they made a low pass over Dubai Airport, he saw the runway obstacles being removed. At 5:40 am (October 14) Co Pilot Vietor made a normal landing on Dubai Airport's main runway. In Dubai, the Hijackers asked Dubai Airport Control Tower to supply water, food, medicine and newspapers and take away the garbage. Captain Jürgen Schumann was able to communicate there were two men and two women Hijackers onboard. In an interview with journalists, this information was revealed by Dubai's Sheikh Mohammed, then Minister of Defense. Hijackers heard this information, possibly from the radio. Mahmud to threaten to kill Captain Schumann. The aircraft remained on the ground at Dubai all day and night. Following morning Mahmud threatened to start shooting Hostages if the aircraft was not refueled. Dubai Authorities finally agreed. In the meantime, both Hans-Jürgen Wischnewski, the West German Minister responsible for handling the hijacking, and Colonel Ulrich Wegener, Commander of the elite German anti-terrorist squad GSG 9, arrived in Dubai. They tried wanted Dubai Government to let GSG 9 Commandos into Dubai to storm the aircraft. Although permission was granted, SAS and GSG 9 senior operatives insisted on additional combat exercise and dry-runs on an adjacent airstrip. Reports suggest up to 45 hours of supplementary training was conducted during their 80 hours in Dubai. While Wegener was considering his options, Flight LH181 completed its refueling and took off at 12:20 am (October 17) heading for Salalah, Oman, where landing was again denied so Hijackers directed the aircraft to Aden, South Yemen.

Tragedy in Yemen

Aden's main runway was blocked by vehicles but the plane was running low on fuel. Captain Schumann had no choice but to land on a sand strip nearby. In order to verify the condition of the landing gear following the rough landing, Captain Schumann was allowed to temporarily leave the plane. But Schumann did not immediately return to the plane after the inspection even after numerous attempts to recall him and a threat to blow up the aircraft. Reasons for this prolonged absence are unclear. Some reports indicate Schumann notified Yemeni Authorities of the location of the Semtex explosives and was forced to remain in the control tower. Captain Schumann returned to the aircraft. Mahmud shot Captain Schumann in the head before Capt Schuman had a chance to explain himself.

CLICK HERE for VIDEO: Sheikh Mohammed negotiating with Hijackers

Published: October 4, 1982
ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates, Monday, Oct. 4 — An Iranian Air Force C-130 Hercules transport plane was hijacked and flown to the Dubai Airport today but later left for an unknown destination, the official United Arab Emirates news agency reported. The aircraft, with 79 people on board, landed at Dubai, one of the seven emirates of the United Arab Emirates, after the pilot radioed that he was short of fuel, the agency quoted official police sources as saying. The agency said that after the plane landed, the control tower discovered the Hercules had been hijacked by unidentified people who sought permission to contact friends in the United States. The agency said the Hijackers released some Passengers, including 26 children and 19 women, before the plane left Dubai. However, the total number of Passengers released was not immediately known. The number of Hijackers was also not known.

The New York Times

No information located on hijacked Aircraft's final destination or Hijack outcome.

Middle Eastern Airlines Flight ME426

Four terrorists boarded Flight ME426 in Beirut, Lebanon enroute to Dubai where they changed flights, boarding Kuwait Airways Flight KU221 bound for Karachi, Pakistan. Three American Diplomats, William Stanford, Charles Hegna, and Charles Kapar were on board KU221. Shortly after take-off from Dubai, the terrorists hijacked KU221, forcing the aircraft to land in Tehran where it sat on the airport tarmac for several days during which the terrorists tortured the three American Diplomats, eventually murdering Hegna and Stanford. The stand-off ends after six days when Iranian Security Forces disguised as cleaners stormed the plane.


Families of the slain Diplomats sued Kuwait Airways and MEA for damages. These are Extracts from the Court Proceedings...

.....The three were employed by the United States Department of State, Agency for International Development, and were en route from Kuwait City to their base of operations in Karachi. KU221 stopped in Dubai to refuel and to pick up additional Passengers heading for Karachi. Passengers connecting to KU221 from other flights were required to take a bus on the tarmac to KU221 and climb a set of stairs to enter the jet through the forward door of the plane. Kuwait Airlines official placed a table at the top of the stairs leading to the forward door of flight KU221, where he checked connecting Passengers' carry-on luggage as they boarded. One witness, Neil Beeston, testified that he saw three of the four Hijackers standing on the tarmac near the unguarded-- and not in use-- rear stairs of the airplane during the boarding process. Other testimony established that the tarmac, in general, was poorly lit and not well guarded......

.....No one knows how the Hijackers got their weapons on board flight KU221. There was no direct evidence that they had weapons in their possession on board MEA flight 426 or, later, when they boarded flight KU221. On the other hand, there was also no evidence that the weapons were already on board flight KU221 when the Hijackers boarded. Plaintiffs showed that no weapons were found when KU221 was routinely cleaned at Dubai, that no Passengers disembarked while the plane waited for about an hour on the tarmac at Dubai, and that all panels in the plane remained undisturbed. In addition, there was evidence that it was a common practice in the Middle East to allow one Passenger to check in for a number of other Passengers, thus allowing armed Passengers to avoid contact with airline officials......

The Complete Court Proceedings are HERE

Indian Airlines Flight 814 (VT-EDW) with 178 Passengers on board (mostly Indian Nationals) flying back to India after vacationing in Nepal was hijacked on December 24, 1999, shortly after the aircraft entered Indian airspace at about 17:30 IST. It was the start of an eight day drama that continues to have an impact today. Dubai played a critical part in this hijack. Natonal Geographic's three part video portrays these events.


An Egyptian Passenger carrying a forged passport tried to hijack a London-bound Pakistani plane during a stopover in Dubai, police and airline officials said Monday. They said the unnamed man was overpowered by police in Sunday's incident on board the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flight from Karachi. The Passenger pulled out a butter knife, grabbed an oxygen bottle then ordered the pilot to take off for London after refusing to submit his passport for a routine security check of documents, PIA area manager Shahid Latif told AFP. He said Dubai Police were not filing charges against the man, who was accompanied by a pregnant wife and two children, and that he was to be deported back to Karachi for carrying a forged Belgian Passport. The London flight took off after a delay of three and a half hours. One of the many routes for illegal entry into Britain is Dubai because of its high number of international transit flights and onward connections, a British Embassy official said -- DUBAI (AFP)